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Community service. An important part of every Adventist school. One that requires commitment of time and energy on the part of students, teachers, support staff and oftentimes parents. And one that rarely falls into a school’s lap as did the “Backpack for Kids” program for Beacon Christian School in Lewiston, Idaho.

Thanks to local retired dentist, Barc Seibly, who has ties to Beacon, our school was offered a unique, collaborative community service opportunity. As a result, Beacon students have spent the last eight years in a partnership with a food bank in the Lewis-Clark Valley to help fill some of the needs of area school children who suffer from food insecurity. Once a month, teachers and volunteers accompany students to the Asotin County (Wash.) Food Bank where they pack approximately 225 kits full of easy-to-prepare, non-perishable, nutritious food items that are then distributed at the end of every school week to the area’s public and private school students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. Each food kit contains four meals to assist in the child’s nourishment throughout the weekend.

Teacher chaperones, David Gage and Terry McGarvey, share in the students’ excitement and anticipation of the monthly outing. Once on the scene, a flurry of activity erupts in the food bank storeroom as adults set up an assembly line of students from grades three through nine. Imagine the activity of the children as they grab a kit, pack a food item, and pass the kit down the line. Grab, pack, pass. 225 times. Grab, pack, pass. Repeat.

The impact of this program on students underscores the goals of community service. Fourth-grader Enzo shares that he loves helping people. “I wish I could do more,” he reflects, adding that he likes the teamwork that efficient packing of kits requires. Fifth-grader Hadley shares that going to the food bank is important because they are helping families and kids. “It makes me feel good to help others in need,” she states. “We all hope we can keep doing it and keep making a difference. The food bank rocks!” So much enthusiasm for community service among elementary students? Priceless!

Backpacks for Kids is truly a valley-wide labor of love. With a yearly cost of over $40,000, the program is funded totally by donations from various entities — Beacon students (grades three through five have raised $433 this year alone), local churches, businesses, civic organizations, and interested individuals. The actual work is also completely voluntary; there are no costs associated with salaries, hourly wages, or benefits. From start to finish, it is a sacrificial effort, and that on a valley-wide scale. Beacon students are a vital part of the program. By lending their time and effort, they grow in their Christian walk and learn to give back to their community. We at the Lewiston Seventh-day Adventist Church are proud of Beacon’s longtime participation in the Backpacks for Kids program and are eager to support their efforts.

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