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Cape Coral Youth Council continues mission, makes donation to Blessings in a Backpack Southwest Florida

By Staff | Jan 14, 2020

The Cape Coral Youth Council continued its mission of helping to feed underprivileged children in the city, as it presented a donation to an organization aimed at feeding the future of Southwest Florida.

The Youth Council, made up of 14 representatives of local high schools, gathered in council chambers last Friday and presented a check of $841.56 to Blessings in a Backpack Southwest Florida, a local (and national) non-profit that supplies disadvantaged youth in grades K-5 with food for over the weekend.

The money raised is enough to feed an additional eight children in Cape Coral for a whole school year — a huge addition, said Blessings in a Backpack Southwest Florida Executive Director Cecilia St. Arnold, who was in attendance in council chambers to accept the donation.

“This is the perfect example of what a wonderful community we have,” St. Arnold said. “Look at the philanthropic hearts that these kids are showing. I like the fact that they are taking care of their own.”

She reiterated how much of a difference the donation made by the Youth Council will make on the lives of youth in the city.

“That will go into one of our program funds here in Cape Coral and next year I will be able to add eight more children,” St. Arnold said. “That’s huge.”

The funds were raised as part of the Youth Council’s Fall Gala, held in September.

Blessings in a Backpack has been the legacy organization for Cape Coral’s Youth Council for a few years now, and this council has picked up the ball and continued to work to assist families in the community.

“It’s been an amazing journey working alongside such an amazing organization,” said Amanda Benitez, a Cape Coral High School senior and chair of the Youth Council. “They have been our legacy organization for the past three years and in the past we’ve done activities with them to help fundraise. It’s all part of our initiative to fight world hunger as a council.”

St. Arnold said she has been floored by the maturity level and poise of the young people on the Youth Council, that it fills her with joy to see the future of our communities make a difference today.

“I’m very, very impressed with all of these students — the maturity level with these young people,” St. Arnold said. “The fact that we’ve got an organization with all these young people right here bringing awareness, it just warms my heart.

“They’re all so well rounded and so smart and so knowledgeable of why they’re doing what they’re doing. They’re not just doing it to fill an application. They’re doing it because they really see the need, and there’s a need in Cape Coral.”

The need, indeed, is staggering.

Currently, Blessings in a Backpack Southwest Florida feeds 5,000 children over the weekend throughout the region — 4,200 of those across 19 schools in Lee County.

St. Arnold said there are 32,000 students in the area that could benefit from the Blessings in a Backpack program and that nearly every school they’re in has a waiting list for students.

Blessings in is three schools in Cape Coral: Christa McAuliffe Charter Elementary, Heritage Charter Academy and Tropic Isles Elementary (Cape students).

St. Arnold said with $100 the group can feed one child, four meals, for 38 weekends.

Weekend backpacks include ready-to-eat food items that are kid friendly, healthy, lightweight, nonperishable and easy for children of all ages to carry and make for themselves.

For Benitez and the council, this is an issue they feel strongly about and want to bring more attention to.

“Having this as our legacy organization is so important because throughout our nation, we see the problem of having childhood hunger,” Benitez said. “It’s so prevalent, however, it is so ignored. Seeing as we are living in a developed county, it’s kind of inconceivable that children would even starve in the first place considering the wealth that most of us live in. When it comes to being able to bring light to that issue within our country — maybe being able to help one step at a time — is something so important because we are part of the youth — that could have been any of us. Using our resources to help them out is the biggest thing for us.”

St. Arnold said she was blown away by the initiative the Youth Council took when working with the teens.

“They’re setting the stage and the standard for the younger people,” she said.

For more information on Blessings in a Backpack Southwest Florida, visit www.blessingsinswfl.org.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj