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Donation supports growing program

Jill Schramm/MDN A symbolic check for $12,000 was passed from the Minot Area Community Foundation to Souris Valley United Way Monday to represent a donation to the Backpack Buddies program. From left are MACF President Jason Zimmerman, SVUW Executive Director Rich Berg, MACF Finance and Program Director Staci Kenney, and MACF board members Leslie Coughlin and Perry Olson.

The Minot Area Community Foundation announced an award of $12,000 to the Souris Valley United Way’s growing Backpack Buddies program Monday.

The donation came about following a monthly meeting between the two organizations, at which it was brought to MACF’s attention that the Backpack Buddies program had grown substantially since the end of the previous school year.

At the end of the 2020/2021 school year, the United Way reported having 250 elementary age youth enrolled in the Backpack Buddies program compared to 280 already enrolled at the beginning of this 2021/2022 school year. These totals do not include the roughly 58 additional youth being served through Jim Hill Middle School and Souris River Campus.

The sudden growth in the number of children applying for participation in the Backpack Buddies program prompted United Way Executive Director Rich Berg to seek additional funding. Because of the quick action by MACF staff and board directors, the United Way was able to secure the additional funding needed and did not have to turn anyone away from the program.

In North Dakota, roughly one in four people are food insecure, many of those are children. Locally, about one in five youth are at risk of going hungry over the weekends when they do not have access to school food programs, according to MACF.

Berg said Minot’s numbers can be expected to rise throughout the school year. Already, participation is at about 340 youth, he said.

“I can’t thank the Minot Area Community Foundation enough for this funding,” Berg said. “It reminds me of the high quality of people we have in our area and how they rally to support those in need whenever they can. I want to thank the Minot Area Community Foundation staff and board for their support and caring attitudes.”

The $12,000 from the Minot Area Community Foundation’s Arnold. I. Besserud Fund will go directly toward the purchase of food for the Backpack Buddies program. The Besserud Fund’s primary focus is to provide food and basic humanitarian needs to those who need it most in the community. The cost to sponsor a child is about $10 a weekend or $360 a year.

“The MACF staff and board are very happy to help fulfill this unmet need with a quick response to ensure all children who are participating in this essential program are taken care of,” said Jason Zimmerman, MACF president.

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