Culver Program Helps Hungry Children
Writer / Matt Keating
Blessings in a Backpack Culver, located at 401 School Street in Culver, has been helping make sure children in the local community don’t go hungry—and the organization’s leaders would love to get additional help.
Marian McCuen, with the Blessings in a Backpack Culver program, says the program’s goal is to make sure kids have access to food and notes that the program has been that way since it started.
“The Culver program was started by Dianne Johnson as a Marshall County Leadership Project,” says McCuen. “Dianne began fundraising in 2014, and the first local chapter began in January 2015 to serve students during the school year. Susan Elizondo then later took over for Diane Johnson.”
McCuen, who is a co-coordinator of the program with Brenda Osborn, added that Blessings in a Backpack mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on the weekends for school-aged children who otherwise might go hungry.
“In 2017, Blessings in a Backpack Culver was one of the first organizations in the country to provide weekend meals to students during the summer months,” says McCuen.
The Culver community has been very good about making sure children in the area have the nourishment they need to learn and grow.
McCuen says Blessings in a Backpack Culver offers different people diverse ways to help close the weakened nutrition gap for children by sharing their time and talent.
“An informational letter to the parents in the area is distributed at the beginning of the school year to explain our program and to see who needs assistance,” says McCuen. “The school counselors give us a list of students in need. We then start ordering items to distribute to the student’s lockers on Thursdays after school.”
Blessings in a Backpack Culver then has packing days to get the food ready.
“Once a month, we have a pack day where we prepare the bags for weekly distribution,” says McCuen. “We receive funds from groups, organizations and individuals.”
McCuen says Blessings in a Backpack Culver also has strategies to feed more kids through volunteer teams, chapters and events.
Before COVID-19, Blessings in a Backpack Culver had a Bolt for Blessings Walk and Fun Run to get donations and advertise the program.
“This event was supported by the community school and Culver Military Academy students with area businesses sponsoring the event,” says McCuen. “In the summer, we deliver to different spots in the neighboring towns, like town halls or libraries, where the families can pick up the items. Four counties filter into Culver community school system. We are providing food for about 145 students currently.”
McCuen has loved working for Blessings in a Backpack Culver.
“I moved to Culver in 2018 and heard about Blessings from my daughter-in-law, Jessica McCuen, and some church members,” she says. “My husband, Greg, and I volunteered to help, and we were introduced to Laura Spensley, the summer coordinator, and Dianne Johnson, the founder. We then started assisting Blessings weekly.”
McCuen says she has personally witnessed children in need of more food.
“I worked in the Westville school system for 31 years as a paraprofessional and saw firsthand the effects of poorly nourished children. I knew that helping with Blessings in a Backpack would be a great fit for my husband and I to meet people and get involved in a worthy cause.”
McCuen notes that they are always looking for more people to help or make donations.
“We use Town Gown and Lake to recruit volunteers and have a core group of around 15 people who assist at the monthly packings consistently,” she says.
Donations can be sent to Brenda Osborn, 1111 West Shore Drive, Culver, IN 46511, or to the national Blessings in a Backpack website at blessingsinabackpack.org. Then, select a Culver community school to donate to.
“We are also in partnership with the Academy for an Impact Competition with the Ron Rubin school for the Entrepreneur,” McCuen says. “J. D. Eubler works on that. Tracy Fox has also assisted us with the nutritional aspect of items included.”
For more information on Blessings in a Backpack, 401 School Street, Culver, Indiana, call (800) 872-4366, or check out their website at www.blessingsinabackpack.org.