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Community continues to help Paw Packs

Food program aids Sawyer kids

Lauren Mattila, left, and Daylee O’Donnell assemble Paw Packs. These packs are given to K.I. Sawyer Elementary School students. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Erickson)

GWINN — The food program for youngsters in need at K.I. Sawyer Elementary School is going well, but a little — or a lot — of added help now and then can’t hurt.

Hannah Erickson, coordinator of the nonprofit organization that began in August 2018, acknowledged Paw Packs is going well.

“We started slow, because we didn’t want to start it and have it fail,” Erickson said. “And it’s going great. I think it just needed a ringleader or somebody to get it going.

“We’re getting a lot of donations. We’re getting a lot of people asking if they can contribute.”

Erickson said a “Comfort Closet” was started this year that includes emergency goods such as deodorant, shampoo, underwear, socks, hats and other items.

“The teachers access that closet whenever,” she said.

Packs of food are packed every Thursday, she noted, so kids don’t go hungry over the weekend. Social workers indicate which children receive packs.

The “packs,” Erickson said, are just plastic grocery bags.

That bags, though, contain sustenance for kids who need it.

“There’s three dinners, two lunches, two breakfasts and snacks,” Erickson said, “and the weight is the hardest part, because those little kids have to take it home. We want to give them a whole bunch.”

The program’s success wouldn’t be possible with community help.

Erickson said a big recent donation came about when a Gwinn dentist, Gwendolyn Buck, was on an airplane and started talking with Jim Mennell.

Mennell is CEO of National Carbon Technologies, which makes renewable carbon products for energy and food production that reduce environmental impacts. The company, he said, currently employs 35 people in Gwinn.

He apparently was looking for an organization in Gwinn he could help, and Buck mentioned she has donated to Paw Packs.

Erickson then reached out to Mennell, and the next thing she knew he asked how much it would cost to fund the program for the rest of the school year.

Without hesitation, he sent a check in the mail.

Mennell didn’t disclose the amount of the donation, but did compliment Erickson on her work.

“Hannah’s vision and work to set up Paw Packs is what is really special here,” Mennell said in an email. “She saw a need, took action and less than two years later, every kid in Gwinn who needs some help will receive food for the weekends and holidays for the rest of the year.

“I love the initiative and heart she put into Paw Packs — it makes it easy for the rest of us to follow.”

Erickson said 80 Sawyer students currently are in the program.

“We have a budget for 200, but we’re just easing into it,” she said.

Anyone interested in contributing to Paw Packs can email gwinnpawpacks @gmail.com or write to P.O. Box 655, Gwinn, MI 49841.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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