Thank you, Mike.

When I asked Mike why he volunteers, he told me he likes helping
others. If you know Mike Meeks, Sr. you know this about him: he is a jokester,
full of wit and what you see is what you get. This authentic side to Mike,
along with his spirit of service to others, are what make him a volunteer stand
out.

Mike came to be a part of the BackPack Weekend Food Program (BWFP) by
happenstance. He was presenting a check to Mrs. Carolyn Niemeyer, founder of
the BWFP, and several program volunteers on behalf of the Bessemer City
American Legion. Mrs. Niemeyer encouraged him to visit again, but this time as
a volunteer, so he did. That was nine years ago. Mike is still one of the
“end-of-the-line” volunteers at the warehouse today. Mike also works with the Bessemer City BWFP committee
to raise money to supply weekend food for 35 students in one of the two Bessemer
City elementary schools.

Born and raised in Bessemer City, Mike knows the town and people well.
He attended Stewart Elementary through 7th grade and graduated from
Lincoln High School. Mike retired from Wyndham Worldwide Hotels in 2008 and
returned to his hometown where he still resides.

As we were meeting and talking, Mike pulled out his phone to see the
time of his next appointment. Volunteering on 27 community committees makes him
very busy and reliant on his calendar. Six years of his retired life have been
at the Bessemer City Crisis Center; he became President of the Center only a
year after he started.

Father of three sons, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Mike scrolled through several photos
of his family on his phone while we met. I asked Mike what he likes to do in
his spare time. He told me not a lot of people know he enjoys photography. He
also loves to cook, but the kind of cooking that takes several hours to prepare
and makes enough to share with friends and neighbors. Mike was featured in
Essence Magazine for his BBQ recipe and as a result, was asked to critique
reader-submitted recipes that would later be published.

Mike is a huge advocate for veterans. A retired veteran of the United
States Army and current President of the Gaston County Veterans Council, Mike
makes serving others, particularly, veterans his life’s purpose. Mike visits veterans
regularly, many of whom are in assisted living situations and widowed. Mike provides
transportation for veterans to and from the hospital day and night as needed. He is also a member of the Gaston honor guard,
serves at military funerals in Gaston and surrounding counties and heads up the
annual Veterans Day Parade in Gastonia. The BWFP had to privilege to
participate this year in the parade a few weeks ago.

In this season of giving, I want to thank you, Mike, for your service—service to our country, service to fellow veterans and service to others through volunteering. Keep being you!

When I asked Mike why he volunteers, he told me he likes helping
others. If you know Mike Meeks, Sr. you know this about him: he is a jokester,
full of wit and what you see is what you get. This authentic side to Mike,
along with his spirit of service to others, are what make him a volunteer stand
out.

Mike came to be a part of the BackPack Weekend Food Program (BWFP) by
happenstance. He was presenting a check to Mrs. Carolyn Niemeyer, founder of
the BWFP, and several program volunteers on behalf of the Bessemer City
American Legion. Mrs. Niemeyer encouraged him to visit again, but this time as
a volunteer, so he did. That was nine years ago. Mike is still one of the
“end-of-the-line” volunteers at the warehouse today. Mike also works with the Bessemer City BWFP committee
to raise money to supply weekend food for 35 students in one of the two Bessemer
City elementary schools.

Born and raised in Bessemer City, Mike knows the town and people well.
He attended Stewart Elementary through 7th grade and graduated from
Lincoln High School. Mike retired from Wyndham Worldwide Hotels in 2008 and
returned to his hometown where he still resides.

As we were meeting and talking, Mike pulled out his phone to see the
time of his next appointment. Volunteering on 27 community committees makes him
very busy and reliant on his calendar. Six years of his retired life have been
at the Bessemer City Crisis Center; he became President of the Center only a
year after he started.

Father of three sons, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Mike scrolled through several photos
of his family on his phone while we met. I asked Mike what he likes to do in
his spare time. He told me not a lot of people know he enjoys photography. He
also loves to cook, but the kind of cooking that takes several hours to prepare
and makes enough to share with friends and neighbors. Mike was featured in
Essence Magazine for his BBQ recipe and as a result, was asked to critique
reader-submitted recipes that would later be published.

Mike is a huge advocate for veterans. A retired veteran of the United
States Army and current President of the Gaston County Veterans Council, Mike
makes serving others, particularly, veterans his life’s purpose. Mike visits veterans
regularly, many of whom are in assisted living situations and widowed. Mike provides
transportation for veterans to and from the hospital day and night as needed. He is also a member of the Gaston honor guard,
serves at military funerals in Gaston and surrounding counties and heads up the
annual Veterans Day Parade in Gastonia. The BWFP had to privilege to
participate this year in the parade a few weeks ago.

In this season of giving, I want to thank you, Mike, for your service—service to our country, service to fellow veterans and service to others through volunteering. Keep being you!

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Walking a Mile in Each Other’s Shoes

Volunteer Spotlight: Sue Johnson

I met Sue about a year ago at my first warehouse Pull Order day, along with about 25 other volunteers. I didn’t know a lot of volunteer names; only a few familiar faces from my time volunteering with the program before I assumed my role as Executive Director in 2018. I soon learned that Sue, like other “veteran” volunteers, had a regular spot in the warehouse. She took up her station by the Dinty Moore products, green beans and peas and carrots. For many months, I associated volunteers with their “regular” food item section to help me learn their names. I got to see Sue’s work up close because she was positioned in front of the conveyor belt where all the food gets placed before it reaches the end of the line for final counting and sorting. Soft spoken, Sue was always focused, making sure each order was accurate when she placed it on the line.   

After a full year with the BackPack Weekend Food Program (BWFP), I don’t need to use the food item association tool to help with names. I know our volunteers and adore all of them, each with their own distinct personalities and their shared passion for the children we serve.

Sue has become a dear volunteer to me and is also our primary contact for First Presbyterian Church-Belmont, BWFP’s partner for East Gaston High School. Sue has first-hand knowledge of the hunger issue among students in Gaston County; she retired as a teacher from Lowell Elementary School in 2014. Sue loved teaching but felt it was time to retire so she could do things she couldn’t do working full-time, such as volunteering. She told me a lot about how she spends retirement, much of which is through volunteering for the BWFP, Habitat for Humanity and her church. I asked Sue to choose her favorite place to meet for our “interview.” In true Sue fashion, she suggested we walk and talk at Seven Oaks Preserve in Belmont. For about two hours on a Friday afternoon, Sue and I exchanged life stories, empathized over similar back problems and connected on a deeper level over our passion for serving others.

Sue was instrumental in getting First Presbyterian Belmont on board as a partner with the BWFP. She heard about the program through an acquaintance at church and was the chair of the mission ministry at the time. Sue reached out to the BWFP founder and decided to volunteer at the warehouse to get a deep dive understanding of the operation. That was four years ago, and she’s still volunteering today. Staying busy and connected with people is important to Sue, although she said after our hike that she was looking forward to some “down” time.

In addition to volunteering, Sue has started raising Monarch butterflies at home. She explained that these beautiful creatures are nearly on the endangered species list due to land development resulting in a loss of their habitat and milkweed food sources, heightened use of pesticides and climate change. She got interested in Monarch butterflies after some research and is now teaching others about the breeding process and takes milkweed to Lowell Elementary where students get hands-on breeding experience. The Monarch Butterfly is referred by many as the most beautiful butterfly or the “king of butterflies,” thus, acquiring the name “Monarch.” Monarch butterflies go through four generations each year.

What I found most fascinating about the Monarch is that each year, the fourth generation travels up to 2,500 miles, about 100 miles each day, from Canada and parts of the US to the same location where their ancestors went using their own internal GPS. Both Sue and I agreed that this is nothing short of miracle of Mother Nature.

I think we can learn a lot from Sue and the Monarch butterfly. Like Monarchs, Sue has strength and determination to pursue her goals, which tend to focus a lot on helping others. She has an innate instinct to appreciate the beauty surrounding her, hence her love for nature and hiking. But I believe Sue appreciates a beauty that extends beyond the physical; rather, a beauty that can only be seen through the heart. Thank you, Sue, for finding it within yourself to follow your passion by encouraging others to find a similar path and purpose in life.

Senator Harrington Visits BackPack Warehouse

Senator Kathy Harrington visited the BackPack Weekend Food Program (BWFP) warehouse on Tuesday to personally thank volunteers with the program and roll up her sleeves to help pull food orders for nearly 800 students. Each month during the school year, volunteers assemble at the BWFP warehouse to organize food items for partners to pick up. Partners represent churches, local businesses, households and community groups. Partners take food items from the warehouse once a month, pack individual food bags and deliver to students at schools each week to take home on the weekend.

Like other nonprofits, the BWFP is sustainable because of its more than 500 volunteers scattered throughout Gaston County who support the program through packing, delivering food and generous financial giving.

“Indispensable to the BWFP program are its volunteers and countless volunteer hours committed to making sure students in need have enough food to eat on the weekend,” said Dallas Butler, Executive Director. “The number of volunteers’ hands that touch the food items before they ever reach the hands of our students is a remarkable testimony to the abundance of kindness in this community. We are so grateful to Senator Harrington and many others who have a heart for this program and the students’ lives it is impacting.” 

The BWFP provides nutritious weekend meals to students K-12 in Gaston County Schools. Between 800 to 1,000 students receive food on the weekend through the program during the school year.

Target Circle Charitable Giving

We are honored and excited to announce that we have been chosen to participate in a special charitable giving campaign, sponsored and funded by Target. And you have the chance to help direct a portion of Target’s donation to us!

Thank you for your support, and we encourage you to share your support for us (and your thanks to Target) on social media throughout the duration of the voting!
thanks to Target) on social media throughout the duration of the voting!

Now through July 7, 2019, vote for us through the Target Circle program to help determine how Target’s donation will be divvied up. Find out more about Target Circle here: http://www.target.com/circle

We’re asking our supporters to help us make the most of this incredible opportunity. Every vote counts to help us receive a portion of the available Target funds as we continue our mission to feed students in need on the weekends in Gaston County Schools.

Don’t forget, as you earn more votes, you can keep voting multiple times during the campaign!

Offering Hope and a Brighter Future

From now until April 22, 2019, YOU can help eliminate the chance of a child going hungry on the weekend with a donation to the BackPack Weekend Food Program, Inc. (BWFP) through the Gaston Community Foundation Run 19. Your tax-deductible contribution will be matched by a percentage at the end of the campaign (4/22/19). Click HERE to donate to the BWFP and be an agent of change in the lives of children in Gaston County.

When you think about childhood hunger, we often envision impoverished countries and images of malnourished children, but childhood hunger is a REAL and SERIOUS problem in our own community. Hunger affects more than just a child’s physical health; it impacts their social and emotional well-being. Children who face hunger on the weekend often live in a dark world of hopelessness.

But, you can help change this trajectory with a donation to the cause. For only $350, you can help provide weekend meals to a student for an entire school year. Any dollar contribution is going to make a difference. In fact, your donation of any amount could mean the difference between a child having to worry about where they get their next meal AND coming to school less anxious, more alert and ready to learn. No child should have to go hungry on the weekend.

Help us feed our community’s children in need and offer a brighter tomorrow.

BackPack Weekend Food Program, Inc. to host Annual Fundraiser in September

DINING AT THE CHEF’S TABLE WILL RETURN TO GASTON COUNTY IN SEPTEMBER
BackPack Weekend Food Program, Inc. to host Annual Fundraiser

The BackPack Weekend Food Program’s (BWFP) signature fundraiser, Dining at the Chef’s Table, is back again and with an extra, special flare. This year’s soirée will be held on Saturday, September 15, at the Gaston Country Club beginning at 6:30 p.m. A slight twist on the original event arrangement, the soirée will feature specialty tapas, pop-up performances, silent and live auctions and local Celebrity Servers.

“To mark the fourth annual fundraising event, we will celebrate nearly eight years of providing more than 1.4 million weekend meals to students in Gaston County Schools,” said Dallas Butler, Executive Director, BackPack Weekend Food Program, Inc. “We are excited to host Dining at the Chef’s Table Soirée, which we hope will be an entertaining and memorable experience for our guests and continue to raise awareness about the BWFP.”

The evening begins with cocktails and a unique auction collection, pop-up opera performances, interactive activities and an array of specialty food selections featuring Mediterranean, Southern, New Orleans, Italian and vegetarian cuisine. Emceeing the event this year are two familiar faces: Steven D’Avria, CEO at the Gaston Regional Chamber and Brigida Mack, anchor and reporter at WBTV News.

A trademark of the annual fundraiser, the 2018 Celebrity Servers are: Annie Anthony, Volunteer; Dr. William A. Current, Jr. DDS; Jennifer P. Davis, President and CEO, Jennifer P. Davis & Associates, LLC; Greg Dills, Owner, Page Power Systems, Inc.; John Forgan, Senior Vice President and Group Manager, PNC Bank; Edie Hancock, Owner, Winter Past Flowers and Gifts; Craig Kluttz, Market President and Commercial Banker, BB&T; Natalie Tindol, Owner and President, Tindol Ford; Chris Peek, President and CEO, CaroMont Health, Walker E. Reid, III, Mayor of Gastonia and Jeff Viner, Managing Partner, Gastonia Nissan.

To create competition this year, Celebrity Servers will compete to win the most desirable title “2018 Best of BWFP Celebrity Server.” Celebrity Servers will be paired with a specialty food and guests can vote for their favorite server and cuisine. For added bait, each vote cast is also a guest’s chance to walk away with a prize valued at $300 or more. Raffle tickets for voting will be available for purchase at the event (2 tickets for $5.00 or 5 tickets for $10.00).

Over 30 silent auction items will be on display for bidding—anything from a Charlotte Staycation to rare, hand-made jewelry pieces.

The evening will culminate with a live auction and the opportunity to pledge to sponsor a child for a school year. For $350, a child can receive meals for 35 weekends during the school year.

Individual guest tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.bwfpgc.com or directly here: https://backpack18.auction-bid.org/microsite/register-tickets. Tickets include open bar, specialty tapas, silent and live auctions and entertainment.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Butler. “As a community, we are committed to helping hungry children in need through weekend meals and offering these children a better promise of tomorrow.”