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Key Club members aid Kiwanis’ fill the backpacks program

By Staff | Nov 2, 2011

Students from the Cape Coral High School Key Club gathered at the new Kiwanis building Wednesday afternoon to fill backpacks for students at three schools in the Lee County School District.

Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral Foundation President Sam Huber said since moving into their new building off of Santa Barbara Boulevard it has allowed him to order enough food to support the program for a month at a time, along with taking advantage of sales and special offers.

The extra storage space has provided them with the opportunity to warehouse their food.

“It has been very good,” Huber said about their new home.

In addition to the extra warehouse space, their new building also allows them to assemble the backpacks whenever it is convenient for them, instead of when their thrift store closed.

“It is a lot more convenient for us to have our home there,” Huber said.

Approximately 500 backpacks are sent out each week for students with enough food to feed at least three people.

Six Key Club members filled 425 backpacks Wednesday with a box of spaghetti, three Fiber One bars, one can of corn and beef ravioli and two pouches of oatmeal for the students to take home over the weekend.

Kiwanians also filled 175 backpacks Monday night.

Key Club member senior Domenique Santagata said although the options may vary from time to time of what they place in the backpacks, the amount of food remains consistent. She said the options will provide the families with at least four or five meals over the weekend.

Two hundred of those backpacks will go to Mariner Middle School and J. Collin English Elementary School, along with 25 backpacks for Tropic Isles Elementary School.

Santagata said they typically have more members every week to help fill the packs.

Due to the limited hands, the group of high school students has a system down that helped them fill 425 backpacks in a productive way. Students lined up on each side of their assembly line of six tables to keep the process moving before it reached the last student’s hands, who then zipped the bag and placed it in bins of 50 packs.

“I think it’s awesome,” senior Key Club member Kylie Sullivan said about the program. “I think it’s great that we are giving back.”

Since joining the Key Club this year she has volunteered at least five times for the backpack program. Sullivan said it just felt right to get involved in the club, which is also helping her accumulate community service hours for her college applications.

Fellow Key Club member junior Elizabeth Rey also thought the backpack program is a great idea.

“I think it’s great that we can help a community,” she said about her third time lending a hand during the weekly event.

Huber said they are selling tickets for two fund raisers that will be held in January to benefit the backpack program.

The Kiwanis Club is currently selling 3,000 raffle tickets for $25 for a chance to win a new vehicle of their choice up to a $25,000 value from the Roger Dean Chevrolet parking lot.

The club also announced the date of the sixth annual Martini Competition, which will take place on Jan. 28. Only 1,000 tickets are available for the event for $25, which are now being sold.

The winner of the car raffle will be announced during the Martini Competition.

Huber said he hopes to raise $30,000 for the backpack program between the two fund raisers after expenses, which will allow them to expand the program dramatically. He said that amount of money would allow them to provide gift cards or boxes of holiday food during holiday weeks.

Those interested in tickets for the raffle and competition can email Huber at sam.huber@gmail.com. Check or credit cards are accepted.

Huber began the backpack program two years ago in his living room because, after touring a school, he was amazed at how many hungry children there were in Lee County. On soup day, the students would stuff their pockets full of crackers so they would have something to eat on the weekend, he said.

This news led Huber down the path of making a difference for students in the Lee County School District.

Twenty-five backpacks were donated to Huber, along with $1,000 from the Kiwanis Club, to help kick off the program of filling backpacks full of food for students in 2009. Every time the club raised money, it allowed him to expand the program by offering assistance to more students. In no time at all, the program went from 25 backpacks to 200.