Oct. 8—OGDENSBURG — Once a month during the school year, a small group of volunteers congregate at the Queenaire Technologies warehouse in Ogdensburg.
They are volunteers for the Ogdensburg Snackpack Program, an effort launched in 2015 by a coalition of city residents, business people and public officials to purchase healthy snacks to be placed into the backpacks of children attending John F. Kennedy and Grant C. Madill elementary schools to take home on the weekends.
In September, they met for just an hour and a half at the warehouse they use to prepare "snackpacks."
This efficient assembly line of volunteers packed up 1,755 snackpacks or 39 bins to be handed out to elementary students.
"It's unbelievable. We have a little assembly line and of course at the beginning of the pandemic we weren't able to do that so it was just Val and Dick Amo and myself. We would go out and just the three of us would pack and so that was a pretty grueling task especially with the increased snackpacks," said Snackpack Chairperson Sue Jacobs, "We are back at it in the warehouse and able to get out of there in a pretty quick manner. We wouldn't be able to do this if we didn't have that group. It just makes everything run so much more smoothly to have those people."
In a snackpack was Golden Grahams cereal, an oatmeal chocolate chip cereal bar, mixed fruit, pears and Scooby Do graham snacks.
Then, the snackpacks are delivered to the schools by Dick Amo and Daniel Harradine Jr. who then pick up the empty bins and bring them back to the warehouse. Jacobs said that having a location like the warehouse to prepare the snackpacks is instrumental and thanked Susan Duffy and Paul McGrath for their contribution to the cause.
Jacobs said that when the program began during the 2015-2016 school year they were providing snackpacks to 190 youth. Now it's close to 300 youth a week.
"Since then we have been just a little below 300. Last year was 276. During the pandemic we were at 360," said Jacobs.
Jacobs, a retired principal at Kennedy Elementary School, can attest to the need for the program. She noticed that some children, especially coming back from a long school break, would jump at the opportunity for free breakfasts that first day back. That was just one of a number of reasons why she has been active in the program.
Fundraising has been difficult due to COVID-19 protocols in place. In fact, the first in-person fundraiser for the program since the fall of 2019 was held on Monday evening which was a spaghetti dinner at the Moose Lodge.
With the pandemic, Jacobs said that program has been relying heavily on service organizations such as the Elks and Lions clubs, area churches as well as personal donations.
A steady flow of donations are keeping the snacks coming for the city's youth.
"We've been able to keep a pretty steady line. We were able to build it up last year," said Jacobs on the program's budget.
"All of our fundraising goes directly to the food," she added.
A quick glance at the Ogdensburg Snackpack Program's Facebook page shows a number of donations just from the last couple of weeks. One was for $500 from a local donor from the Northern New York Community Foundation; another $500 donation was made by the Diocese of Ogdensburg's Bishop's Fund; the Women of the Moose Chapter 199 donated $200; and the Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 donated a $50 gift card among others.
Jacobs said that Ogdensburg's banks, credit unions, restaurants, construction companies, law offices, both Ogdensburg and Riverview correctional facilities, major businesses such as ACCO and Ansen have contributed.
"I just wanted to thank everyone who has donated to this program, I really hope I am not leaving anyone out," said Jacobs. All proceeds go towards providing snacks for the youth. There are no administrative costs or fees except for a post office box.
They order food for the snackpacks three times a year from Renzi Brothers. Prior to the pandemic, the program surveys families to find out what the children like so they can rotate food so they will not get bored with their offerings.
"We surveyed families to get an idea of any changes they wanted. So now we have a rotating supply so we are not giving them the same thing all year long. We do a little rotation, we change up a cereal a little bit, change up the fruit a little and change up the snack that goes along in it," said Jacobs, "We are going by the recommendations from the families as to what they would like to see."
If you would like to contribute to this weekly program during the school year, please send a donation to the Ogdensburg Snackpack Program, P.O. Box 1371, Ogdensburg, NY, 13669.