Contributed by Oslyn Rodriguez,
Founder and Executive Director
Of Backpack International
Backpack International started this new program because it had to figure out a way to continue serving the community while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. In the past, it would have a sit-down supper after Bible Study. It was also limited by space. Their current facility is also not large enough to maintain enough physical distancing between individuals.
Backpack International had a tremendous reaction from the community. Many people have utilized their Drive Thru Service and others have contacted them for delivery. They are scheduled to serve from 4-5:30 p.m. but are almost always out of food by 5; they have even had to turn people away because they didn’t have any more food.
“One week, we ran out of food, I felt so bad that I ordered a pizza and had it delivered to a lady. I didn’t realize how great the need was until we started doing this program,” Rodriguez said.
Backpack International has also had support from community members in several ways. Some volunteer to deliver meals, set up/clean up and donate supplies and additional items such as fruit, bottled water and snacks to supplement the meals. To date, their biggest supporter has been Publix on Hamilton Place.
“When I went over there asking if they could assist us, I was overwhelmed by their generosity. They filled my trunk with cases of bottled water, fresh fruit and snacks,” Rodriguez said. “It was wonderful. Another one of our volunteers spent her own money to purchase special treats for the kids who would receive meals.”
Backpack International is a faith-based ministry serving youth and families in East Alabama, Guyana and beyond by ministering to their physical, academic, social and spiritual needs.
Some of its core activities include providing backpacks to school aged children and teens during the Back to School season and also year-round to families when faced with a hardship such as a fire or natural disaster. These backpacks are filled with school supplies, toiletries, toys, snacks, clothing and more.
Backpack International also serves meals during the fall and spring semesters in partnership with Campus Kitchen Auburn University.
Every summer the organization hosts a Mission Trip to Guyana, South America where it provides a Vacation Bible School Camp and presents all participants with backpacks for the new school year.
We also provide volunteer opportunities year-round for teens and families to help create hygiene and school supply kits and, of course, fill backpacks.
In June 2020, Backpack International hosted its first Unity Prayer Rally in response to the racial tension that was spreading across the country.
Our volunteer days are Mondays and Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m., and on some weekends when we have special projects such as packing the truck to transport backpacks and supplies for international shipping.
People can donate financially on the organization’s website (backpackinternational.org), Facebook (www.facebook.com/backpackinternational), Instagram (www.instagram.com/BackpackInternational) or Cash App ($BPI592).
For $25, your donation can feed a family of four.
For $50, you can provide a child with a backpack.
For $100, you can provide a child with a backpack and three days of camp.
For $500, you can sponsor meals for one week.
“We need help from the community to continue providing meals throughout the holidays, while Auburn University is closed for the semester. We will need meals for 8-10 weeks until operations resume. After putting it out there on FB that we needed about $500 each week to continue feeding the families, we raised over $700 in one night. And the majority of people who provided the support don’t even live in Alabama. One organization, Minnie’s Food Pantry, located in Plano Texas, donated $300! If people who don’t even reside in our local community can come to our aid, surely we can do the same for our own people.”
Backpack International will have a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with Mayor Ron Anders on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m., and its Open House will be on Sunday, Nov. 15, 3 to 4 p.m.