Project Backpack moves
Waupaca Foundry offers new space for group
By Robert Cloud
Project Backpack has relocated its offices.
The organization provides backpacks filled with food to local children in need every weekend during the school year.
It moved into space at Waupaca Foundry’s machining center at 600 Industrial Drive.
Paula Thuerman, Project Backpack’s program coordinator, feels she has come full circle.
The space for the program is where she began her professional career in accounting for Add Inc.
Thuerman said there is enough space for shelving food inventory, bins the backpacks are delivered in and manna carts that are used while stuffing the backpacks.
Decade of giving
Project Backpack started in 2010 as a project at Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church.
“It was the vision of Pastor Dean Wheeler,” Thuerman said, noting Shepherd has partnered with other area churches to expand the program.
Thuerman said prior to Project Backpack, there were teachers who would “sneak food to kids they knew didn’t have anything to eat at home.”
Its first year, the program served 85 students.
Now, Project Backpack feeds an average of 250 students per week.
The program serves 14 schools in five districts: Waupaca, Weyauwega-Fremont, Iola-Scandinavia, Manawa and Amherst.
“Last year, we filled close to 8,000 backpacks,” Thuerman said. “It’s a great ministry to make a little dent in the lives of hungry children.”
A typical backpack will have a can of soup, a pasta dish, a can of tuna, granola bars, fruit and pudding cups, crackers and peanut butter and cereal.
Students also receive vouchers for a half-gallon of milk and a free loaf of bread.
Neumann’s Piggly Wiggly in Waupaca and Sentry Foods in Iola accept the vouchers.
Project Backpack relies on 200 to 250 volunteers each year. There are no paid staff.
“It costs about $50,000 per year for all the food and supplies,” Thuerman said. “None of that goes to salaries.”
Funds are provided by grants and donations from individuals, churches and civic organizations.
To make a donation, write a check for Project Backpack and send it to Shepherd of the Lakes, 153 County Trunk QQ, Waupaca, WI, 54981.
Project Backpack had been located on Churchill Street.
Thuerman said the former landlord called and said he wanted to expand his business and gave the organization four months notice to find a new home.
They contacted Waupaca Foundry for help.
“They jumped on board right away,” Thuerman said. “They’ve been a big supporter of our program for many years. It was a blessing that we found the space so quickly.”