The Backpack Program provides several meals easy for children to make on their own. The meals typically consist of non-perishable food items and are meant for students whose parents may not be able to provide proper nutrition due to some sort of financial instability as noted by school counselors.
The city, along with Temple Masonic Lodge No. 322 and Bethel Baptist Church, is currently providing regular meals and snacks to 20 students at Providence Elementary School, relying entirely on donated food items and the occasional monetary donation that is used to buy food for the backpacks.
For the Thanksgiving holiday, entire food boxes were loaded up for 33 families at both Providence Elementary and Temple Elementary, including turkeys in some cases and chicken in others due to donations from individuals and the Villa Rica Wal-Mart. The same type of boxes are planned for the Christmas holiday as well.
“We had a lot of donations for Thanksgiving so we were able to do more and include Temple Elementary as well, but usually it’s 20 students at Providence,” said Councilwoman Hiley Miller, who heads the city’s program. “We’d like a lot of donations for Christmas as well. If anything is donated, we’ll certainly use it.”
JJ Jeffares, a member of the Temple Masonic Lodge, became involved earlier this year when he and his wife saw a flier at City Hall seeking donations for the Backpack Program. Thinking the call was for school supplies, they quickly went to the store and purchased notebooks, pencils, crayons and other supplies to load the backpacks. However, once they realized it was an ongoing program seeking food for children they went back to the store and got the lodge involved.
“Most needy people aren’t down and out because they want to be, they’re down and out because of circumstance, and everybody has been there at some time whether they want to admit it or not,” Jeffares said. “We wanted people who needed help to understand that they’re not standing on a rock in the river by themselves. There are people who will come to your aid and help you out. The only thing that we ask is that they pass (the charity) on when they can in the future. It may not be a physical thing that you’re giving, it may be some type of encouragement or just a word because sometimes that’s all people need.”
This Backpack Program is just one of the ways the Temple Masonic Lodge seeks to serve the community. They also assist fifth-grade students each Arbor Day with planting a tree, provide a $1,000 annual scholarship at the high school and give away bicycles each year to the top readers at the Temple elementary schools.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Backpack Program can do so at Temple City Hall throughout the week. The backpacks are loaded each Friday morning and delivered to the school, though any donations remaining are stored at City Hall for the next week.