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Preschoolers pack holiday cheer

Children from Martha and Mary
Children from Martha and Mary's Silverdale preschool sort through donated food to fill backpacks with at West Hills Elementary School in Bremerton as part of the Grace for Kids SnackPack program for needy families.
— image credit: Photo by Charles Melton

What began as a food drive last year became something so much more Tuesday morning for preschoolers from Martha and Mary's Silverdale preschool program as they boarded a bus and headed to West Hills Elementary School in Bremerton.

With bags of canned goods and other nonperishable items in their hands, students dropped off their donations before manning their stations as part of the Grace for Kids SnackPack program.

"You are such a pro; you guys are really good at packing backpacks" adult supervisors, Brandy White, Martha and Mary program supervisor, and Stacy Kambrick, Grace for Kids volunteer, told the 4- and 5-year-olds as they filled backpacks for West Hills students in need during the two-week holiday break.

"They are designed to fill in the gap over the weekend, so kids don't come to school hungry and unable to learn," Kambrick said of the SnackPack program, which has been serving students at West Hills Elementary for the past two years.

Each week during the school year, Grace for Kids sends home backpacks full of food, and on top of that, the organization will be making home deliveries of food to families in need before Christmas, she said.

"We heard about West Hills from friends and we decided to it," she said, noting this year the SnackPack program extended to the South Kitsap School District.

Students from Martha and Mary worked with the organization last year to donate food to local food banks, but Tuesday marked the first time students had actually helped prepare the backpacks, Kambrick said.

"I think we'll definitely do it again," White said as students posed for pictures with the dozen or so backpacks they stuffed with items like cans of tuna fish, juice and oatmeal.

Last year students brought food to support the effort, but this year White said she wanted to take the effort one step forward.

"We really wanted to give them an idea about giving and receiving," she said, adding that students read the children's story "Stone Soup" as they prepared for their trip to West Hills.

The story of "Stone Soup" revolves around everyone giving something individually so the greater good can be achieved.

As Kambrick helped the tiny hands place items into the backpacks she noted how even in the current tough economic times people are still giving to those in need.

"People have been so generous in giving to the kids," she said.

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