Project PACK collecting donations throughout October for kids in crisis | PostIndependent.com

Project PACK collecting donations throughout October for kids in crisis

Backpacks for Project Pack are labeled according to gender and age then filled to benefit the specifications of the child needing supplies because of a crisis.

Holiday giving can start a little early this year.

Glenwood Medical Associates is accepting donations for Project PACK throughout October. Project PACK is an organization that works with child advocates to fill and supply backpacks for children who are removed from their homes due to a family crisis. PACK stands for Providing A Crisis Kit, and the packs themselves include essentials such as clothes and toiletries.

After three years of supplying hundreds of backpacks through the Garfield County Sheriff's Office and River Bridge Regional Center, Project PACK is expanding into schools. All 11 schools in the Roaring Fork district will have access to the packs through caseworkers, counselors and family liaisons, said Project PACK organizer Amber Wissing.

Along with the packs, Project PACK is working to start a food program in the schools so students can have access to food in a more discrete manner than eating hot lunches that are part of the free/reduced lunch program.

“For some of these kids, it’s the first new thing they’ve ever had.”

— Amber Wissing, Project PACK organizer

"Especially at the high school, there's a stigma with eating the hot lunch," said Rachel Wippy of Glenwood Medical Associates. Kids won't eat the hot lunches, she said, because then they might feel ostracized from other students — who usually pack lunch or go out to eat.

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This means kids go to sports practice without eating and, with bridge detour traffic, spend up to 13 hours without a meal, Wissing said.

Food items such as Cup O Noodles and energy bars can be donated and then discretely dispersed in nurses' and counselors' offices at the schools.

Another need Wissing is hoping to fill this year is feminine hygiene products for students.

"I learned that some girls aren't going to school because of feminine hygiene," Wissing said. "That feels like something that we don't really think is happening here but it is."

Patients and employees at GMA are encouraged to pick up a tag at the offices that list what items children of certain age and gender need in their pack. People then can donate a whole pack, just some of the items or food products. Wissing urges people to give new items rather than hand-me-down donations.

"For some of these kids, it's the first new thing they've ever had," she said.

Last year, GMA donated about 200 packs, which have real impact on the community.

Wissing said that due to the private nature of the situations, she only gets to hear vague success stories. But one that stood out to her was a young girl who got a pack and was still in her home and told her victim advocate, "I have my pack ready to go in case anything happens with my family again."

"It's a sad situation, but she has some form of security, something that's hers that she can take with her," Wissing said.

Donations will be collected at GMA during business hours until Oct. 31.

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