On a brisk, sunny Saturday morning, several Culver Academies students, faculty, staff, and retirees joined approximately 30 other people outside the Culver Beach Lodge to participate in the Bolt for Blessings, a fun run benefiting Blessings in a Backpack. They were raising funds for the program that feeds Culver Community Elementary School children who otherwise may not have enough to eat over the weekend.
For 38 weeks during the school year, Blessings provides enough non-perishable food to see one child through the weekend. The four meals and two snacks are distributed each Friday to approximately 50 children who have qualified under the federal free or reduced lunch program. The annual Fun Run serves as the primary fundraiser for the organization. It also accepts food and monetary donations throughout the year.
Blessings is supported by CYCO, the joint Culver Youth Community Organization comprised of students from The Academies and Culver Community High School. CGA representative Shannon Klaus ’16 (St. Joseph, Mich.) said CYCO consists of eight students from The Academies and nine from CCHS. Reeves McKenney ’16 (Roanoke, Va.) is the CMA leader.
The CYCO representatives and other Blessings volunteers gather once a month to separate and pack the food for each of the families. The food is stored at Elkay Manufacturing, which is a major sponsor of the program, Klaus said. The cost of one meal is just $2.20, she added, and $80 will feed a child for the school year.
One student who volunteers is Yang (Marshall) Song ’19, from Beijing. He became involved with the program after attending the retirement luncheon for instructor Linda Browne in April. Browne asked the event be turned into a fundraiser for Blessings, with people donating either food or money. This act of charity struck a chord with Song. While charitable giving is part of the Chinese culture, he was surprised by the the level of commitment locally.
It wasn’t the donations of food and money, he added, as much as the time given by the all the volunteers. Time is regarded as a very precious commodity in China, and seeing people donating their free time in the service of people they have never met fascinated him.
“That moved me a lot,” he explained. “To see such a large group of people participating was impressive. Everyone was helping out, working to make the entire town a better place.
“I just really fell into the program,” he added. “But now that I have done it, I really like it.”