WEST POINT, Va. -- Bags filled with canned goods and other donated items are stacked up in the back of Stacy Ellwanger’s SUV.
She makes the trek often, unloading food into a pantry set up at the West Point United Methodist Church where she is a member.
Three years ago the mom came up with the idea of "Pointer Packs," bags of donated food packaged by volunteers.
Many of the volunteers are nearby high school students who also earn community service credit through the National Honor Society.
Every Friday the food is given to West Point Elementary students who might not otherwise eat for the entire weekend.
Ellwanger said many children who receive free breakfast and lunch from the school system do not receive consistent meals over the weekend. Pointer Packs help fill the gap for those children.
“It breaks my heart that any child would be at home without food,” Ellwanger said.
She explained that her team of volunteers meet up at the church and divide the food by the week. They provide a breakfast, lunch and dinner from Friday night through Monday morning.
Organizers said about one-third of the West Point Elementary students receive "Pointer Packs."
Counselor Pam Kosmowski discreetly places the food in each child’s backpack. She worries that during this holiday break some of them won’t have enough to eat.
“That’s going to be two weeks that kids won't have food at school and over the weekends. The extra donations are definitely welcome " Kosmowski explained.
Ellwanger said it is critical for them to bring in donations all year long. They want to keep the "Pointer Packs" program going strong as long as there is a need.
She tells us she’s grateful that her church allows them to store the food in a pantry located in the West Point United Methodist building. All of the money and food donated will go directly to the kids.
Ellwanger said the best part is there are no overhead costs, so they don’t have to pay to store the donated items. The program falls under her church’s outreach ministry so Ellwanger said all of the donations made to them are tax deductible.
The church’s leader Pastor Gordon Meriwether is hoping others, even churches, will give a little extra as we head into the holiday season.
“Churches not only in West Point, but in King William County and across the River. We are trying to bring all churches to fill a void that we have right now” Meriwether said.
Organizers said it costs about $200 per year to supply food for one elementary student and they are now serving about $50 students.
Ellwanger said the group knows the need is also there in their middle school, so their next mission is to expand the program. In fact, she said that is why the group is hoping as many people as possible will see this story and consider contributing to their efforts to eliminate childhood hunger in their community.
If you want to help with a financial donation you can make checks payable to "Pointer Packs" to:
c/o Pointer Packs
3960 Dogwood Drive
West Point, VA 23181
You can also call 804-843-4462.