(Photo by Gabe Licht)
"It doesn't matter what it is. It doesn't matter that it is expendable, that they can use it for personal hygiene and that it's something we take everyday as a basic and a given," said Clay County Upper Des Moines Opportunity Director Anita Jorgensen. "They're not taking it for granted. They can present this to their child and I think that's really neat."
In total, 300 children in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet and Palo Alto counties will receive hygiene backpacks that were assembled during Thursday evening's Division 3 Kiwanis meeting in Milford.
The project began in 2010 under the leadership of then Division 3 Lt. Gov. Paul Brenner.
"No matter where the backpacks went, they were all gone within a month," Brenner said. "There's that much of a demand."
Current Division 3 Lt. Gov. Ernie Cupp said that demand was the reason for the project's continuation.
"I wanted to keep going with this project because I saw the good it did," Cupp said. "Upper Des Moines Opportunity representatives said they had a lot of demand for it. If the system works, why not continue it?"
Jorgensen noted that the program is appreciated by children and their parents.
"The kids always respond well to them because, in many cases, this is something that is personal for them, that they have ownership in, whether it's with the articles that are in it or the backpack themselves," she said.
Jorgensen added that the backpack's usefulness goes beyond the contents.
"Most families use the backpack for the school year or the kids will use it to put their personal things in after they use the articles in it," Jorgensen said. "It's theirs and theirs alone. That's the comment I hear a lot of times, because they don't have many things of their own but this is theirs. That always impresses me."
Nebraska-Iowa District Gov. Bob Mitchell was on hand Thursday to speak to the clubs and install new club leadership. He was impressed with the division-wide service activity.
"I think it's terrific this division is doing this," he said. "What Kiwanis needs to do more of is hands-on delivery. Fundraisers are an arm's length away. This is greater than that. You're doing things that impact people's lives."
Mitchell continued that the project falls in line with his slogan for the Kiwanis year that started Monday.
"Service delivers membership and membership delivers service," he said.
Jorgensen reinforced that slogan.
"I also want to say how impressed I am by how active Kiwanians are in the community and I can see that on a personal level with Upper Des Moines Opportunity and how active they are with programs for us," she said. "Backpacks are just one component of that. I do appreciate the Kiwanis and what they do to help us make our jobs easier."