By Caleb Hoopingarner
A new year has begun, and with it comes new resolutions and goals. If you’re anything like me, a new year brings excitement and new vision for where I want my life to go. I spent a lot of time brainstorming, writing down, eliminating, and settling on my goals for 2014. I did this because I believe it’s important to have vision for your life, and if you’re not leading it, then someone or something else will. And while I believe that it’s important and healthy to work on and invest in you, I also believe that a fulfilled life comes when we live for others.
Jane Evers, Founder/Chair of F.E.L.T. (Feeding Empty Little Tummies) was a shining example of that. It’s in her memory that I write this blog knowing that her enthusiasm and compassion for helping children will live on by those she inspired along the way. She and her team of volunteers operated the donor-generated charity here in Manatee County. Founded in June 2010, F.E.L.T. is Manatee County’s original backpack program created to feed homeless children on weekends- when they often go hungry until Monday morning. The sad truth is that there around 2,000 children in Manatee County alone that are homeless and only eat when they are at school.
F.E.L.T. began the 2011-12 school year with three schools and have since grown to serving SIXTEEN Manatee County Elementary Schools. The schools F.E.L.T. serves are: Bashaw, Blackburn, Gullett, Kinnan, Manatee, McNeal, Mills, Oneco, Orange Ridge, Palmetto, Palm View, Prine, Rogers, Samoset, Tillman and Williams. F.E.L.T. says that “the key to a healthy backpack is thinking small, lightweight and kid-friendly. Packets are our friends. Tuna, chicken, oatmeal, mac ‘n cheese, dried fruit, dried soup, powdered milk- all small, lightweight and kid-friendly. Every week volunteers fill donated backpacks with two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners, as well as two nutritious snacks every week. Then, they deliver them to schools that discreetly dispense them to the students identified by the School Board as being homeless. Mid-week, volunteers pick up the empty backpacks, refill them and the cycle goes on. F.E.L.T. Inc. is dedicated to feeding the homeless children, but knows they are still kids. So, weekly we sneak in a treat, like a lollipop. We also pack toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. when supplies permit.”
To date, F.E.L.T. Inc. has served:
2,375 Healthy Snacks
1,854 Quarts of Milk
We’d like to thank F.E.L.T. Inc. and all those involved for stepping up and making a difference in the lives of the children who desperately need these backpacks full of food. We are grateful to be surrounded by such caring, giving, and loving people in our community.
If you are wondering how you can help, we suggest becoming a “Friend of F.E.L.T.” by sending your e-mail address to FELTinc@tampabay.rr.com . F.E.L.T. publishes a monthly newsletter with updates on how the charity is progressing and other helpful information. F.E.L.T. also has a website (http://www.feltinc.org) packed with information on how you can get involved, the current events they are participating at within the community, who’s helping F.E.L.T., and more. Also, check them out on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/FELT.org)
Together, we can make a difference.