Keweenaw Health Foundation donates $10,000 to 31 Backpacks

The Keweenaw Health Foundation (KHF) recently contributed $10,000 to local non-profit 31 Backpacks, Inc. to help ensure no child in the Copper Country goes to bed hungry. The donation will be used to provide nutritious meals on weekends and during school breaks for children in need.

In considering recipients for the $10,000 donation, the KHF Board looked at which organization is making the greatest positive impact in the community.

“The 31 Backpacks organization was definitely worthy of this donation because their efforts make a tremendous difference for hungry kids,” said Ed Jenich, KHF Executive Director. “There is no doubt that childhood hunger exists in our community and what this organization is doing to help is truly remarkable.”

31 Backpacks was founded in 2012, by Laurel and Melissa Maki, and Amy Zawada, and provides nutritious, easy to prepare foods for approximately 200 students in need every Friday and on school breaks. Volunteers gather at Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Hancock every Thursday morning to pack the bags of food. Volunteer drivers deliver them to the schools Friday morning. Contacts at each school discreetly place the food in the students’ backpacks while they are in class to protect their privacy.

31 Backpacks also maintains a pantry with a refrigerator and freezer at Horizons Alternative High School in Mohawk. The pantry is stocked with food and personal hygiene products. Students help themselves to what they need when they need it.

Generous donations from local businesses, community residents and others are what make 31 Backpacks’ efforts possible. However, since the Father’s Day flood disaster, funding has been down. There was a concern that they would be unable to provide enough food to carry students through Christmas, the longest break of the school year.

“With this very generous donation from the Keweenaw Health Foundation our worries are put to rest,” Melissa Maki said. “We are so grateful to the Foundation for stepping in when they did.”

During the school week, students are provided with breakfast, lunch and a snack. On the weekends many go without, which is why the 31 Backpacks program was created.

“Students look forward to weekends now because they know they will not go hungry, Laurel Maki said. “When they return to school on Monday, they’re ready to learn. The students in this program know and trust that we have their backs.”

Anyone interested in making a donation to 31 Backpacks, Inc. (monetary are best due to limited storage space) can do so by dropping it off or mailing it to Century 21 NCA, 1100 Century Way Ste. C, Houghton, MI, 49931.

For more information, or to volunteer, visit 31 Backpacks on Facebook. 

Pictured: Keweenaw Health Foundation Executive Director Ed Jenich presents a $10,000 donation to 31 Backpacks, Inc. founders and mother-daughter team Laurel and Melissa Maki. The funds will be used to provide nutritious meals on weekends and during school breaks for children in need. Pictured in back are some of the organization's dedicated volunteers.

Keweenaw Health Foundation is a non-profit entity that develops resource opportunities to support the healing mission of Aspirus Keweenaw and the communities it serves. This includes equipment purchases, free health screenings, educational programs and materials, and grants to local organizations to help improve the health and well-being of people in the community.