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Blessings in a Backpack Manages Rising Costs, Seeks New Volunteers

Blessings in a Backpack

The idea of organizing volunteers to pack food for hundreds of Galesburg children while the cost of supplies has risen 40 percent is a sizable task. Despite this, Galesburg Blessings in a Backpack (BIAB) has stayed steady in its ability to accomplish its mission. For Joel Estes, visiting instructor emeritus of educational studies and Blessings in a Backpack program advisor, the importance of the program outweighs the struggle to source funds. 

Blessings in a Backpack Volunteer

The group has turned to looking at new ways to economize, including incorporating a Knox student-led initiative to donate apples every week using their meal swipes. Estes says that it takes the entire community, both in Knox and in Galesburg, to keep the program running.

Estes says that there was a “real buzz around the program” at Knox before COVID. The pandemic transformed many of the operating standards for distributing food, but those restrictions are starting to ease. For Estes, this could be key to keeping the operation quick enough to supply over 380 students from four different schools with a meal.

Blessings in a Backpack

In order to keep the volunteer base strong, Estes hopes to increase attendance by Knox students. He sees BIAB as one of the key programs at Knox that directly connects students to the community. “The program gets students out there. For students involved at the officer level, Blessings has changed their lives.”

Lacey Miller ’23 joined BIAB in 2019 as a first-year. She says the program helped her feel welcome in a new community, more than a thousand miles away from her home state of Washington. Miller currently serves as the student president of BIAB. She hopes to encourage new Knox students to try out even a single volunteering opportunity with the program. She stressed that, even if a student takes part in just one night of packing food, that would be enough. 

Blessings in a Backpack

“It gave me a small taste of home. It helped me learn about Galesburg and about the families in town. The program helped me feel good about myself,” Miller said.

Naeun Kim ’25 recently joined the board of the program as public relations and outreach coordinator. Kim says that it amazes her how just 30 minutes of volunteering a week can impact so many lives. Taking part in BIAB has helped her improve her punctuality, Kim said. 

Kim hopes to see the program continue to grow. In general, she says there is a clear need for more volunteers from Knox or the Galesburg community. As outreach coordinator, she hopes to be a catalyst for growth by showing her peers how impactful the program can be. “Our core mission is great. We will continue to look for people to come to our events and bridge that connection between Galesburg and Knox.” 

Blessings in a Backpack

Estes says that with help from local business leaders, such as the Iron Spike restaurant hosting fundraisers, to the donation collection buckets set up by Bon Appetit, Knox College's dining service provider, he’s confident that they will manage inflation. Right now, volunteers are what the program needs most. “Feeding kids is what we do, but there are so many other benefits of this program. I hope people find the time to give it a try.”

Blessings in a Backpack meets on Tuesday nights at 6:00 p.m. in the First Presbyterian Church to pack meals. Volunteers are welcome to participate every week. 

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Printed on Saturday, March 25, 2023