What started out as a group of friends trying to help a few kids at a nearby school has turned into a neighborhood project that feeds more than 100 children in the Hueytown area.
Debbie Kiker, Ginger Parsons and Charlotte Garrett, members of Hueytown Community Helpers (HCH), started Blessings in a Bag to ensure hungry elementary schoolchildren have well-balanced and easy-to-prepare food to take home on weekends.
In August, volunteers of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) were among almost 140 people who gathered to pack the first bags of the new school year.
Throughout the school year, volunteers will continue to meet at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church Family Life Center every other month to stuff the food bags.
“When we went over the list for the pack-up tonight, we saw that there were 139 people coming,” Kiker said. “This is probably the most we have ever had, and we are thrilled that the Alabama Power Service Organization could be a part of it. We hope to do projects with them in the future.”
Parsons said the volunteers packed 900 bags in 22 minutes. “This makes such a huge difference to the kids and they greatly appreciate everybody that is involved,” she said.
Toni Reed, an Alabama Power Customer Service representative, served as the APSO chair for the Blessings in a Bag project. Reed is no stranger to community service; she has volunteered at shelters for most of her life.
“It’s something that has been instilled in me my whole life. I don’t do it for recognition. I do it because it’s the right thing to do and I am in a position to do so,” Reed said.
“I’m a helper, and I volunteer at different shelters on my own, but when it comes to the babies, it just breaks my heart. It hurts knowing kids are out there struggling and they don’t have enough to eat.”
Reed said she keeps supplies in the back of her car just in case she finds someone who needs help.
This was the first year APSO supported Blessings in a Bag and Reed said she hopes they continue to be involved in the years to come, saying it is not only rewarding, but necessary.
“We do this from the bottom of our hearts, and we just want to continue giving back as much as we can,” Reed said. “The Lord has blessed us where we have enough to give, and that’s the bottom line.”
Currently, the program provides bags to four Jefferson County elementary schools – Hueytown, Concord, Brighton and North Highland. Each bag costs about $3.50 and provides students with two breakfasts, two lunches and snacks. Last school year, 3,800 bags were packed and delivered to 112 elementary students every Friday.
HCH, a group of community volunteers, plans to expand the food program to middle and high schools, as well as including clothing items, and starting specialized programs for families in crisis and kids with special needs.
“This is just such a wonderful event for our community. My heart is full every time we have a pack the bags night and I see how many people and their families show up,” Parsons said. “We may have to move to a bigger space if this keeps getting bigger, which is a great problem to have.”
The next pack the bags date is Wednesday, Oct. 16, and HCH is always seeking volunteers. For more information, contact Ginger Parsons at 205-533-0778.