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Volunteers, mission residents pack meals for growing Backpack Program

As the number of children participating in the Backpack Program grows, the Northlands Rescue Mission requires a cycle of volunteers and its residents every week to pack meals for the program.

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Sadie Gardner, front, and Holly Schneider, right, pack bags for Northlands Rescue Mission's Backpack Program. The program provides over 580 kids in the Grand Forks Public School District meals to take home on weekends who may not have complete and balanced meals otherwise. Photo by Becky Jacobs/Grand Forks Herald

As the number of children participating in the Backpack Program grows, the Northlands Rescue Mission requires a cycle of volunteers and its residents every week to pack meals for the program.

The owners of Sadie's Couture Floral & Event Styling, Adley Anne's Baby and Maternity Boutique and Red Pepper joined efforts to pack meals on Monday.

The Mission serves five elementary schools in the Grand Forks Public School District through the Backpack Program, providing meals to at least 580 kids, according to Lauralee Tupa, donor relations manager at the Mission.

Volunteers pack each bag with two easy-to-prepare breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and juice boxes. Mission residents deliver the meals to children each week before the weekend.

Nicki Tellmann, co-owner of Red Pepper with her husband, Jeff Tellmann, volunteers because she wants to help the program reach children in more schools.

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The program has grown in the four-or-so years it's existed, Tupa said. In its early years, about 150 children received food. Now it's approaching 600 children. But the program currently doesn't have enough money to expand to more schools, she said.

Red Pepper is running its "PEP it FWD" program to help raise money, matching 20 percent of each donation customers make to the Backpack Program.

"As of (Monday), so far we've raised $2,6000," Tellmann said. Red Pepper began collecting Nov. 16, she said.

"We're really doing a hard push during the holiday season," Tellmann said. "This is the season of giving."

The Mission tries to give children more food over holiday breaks from school, Tupa said, but it is limited by the amount of food donated for the bags.

Holly Schneider, owner of Adley Anne's, also volunteered to help pack bags Monday. She set up a table in her boutique to collect monetary and food donations from customers.

While packing bags, Schneider said she hopes "people don't think it's a one time deal," donating to the Backpack Program, but instead keep in mind to grab extra juice boxes or other items while making regular trips to the grocery store throughout the year.

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