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By Denise DuBois
Last week, Mason Dudlley, a senior at Brookestone School in Columbus, addressed a room full of Synovus employees at the former CB&T Bank on 13th Street. The employees were there to help fill bags of food that would be distributed to students in Phenix City schools.
Dudley took over the Backpack Buddies program this year. Backpack Buddies provides food to children over the weekend. While explaining the need for the program, Dudley said there are more than 270 children who are fed as part of the program. These children rely on school breakfast and lunch, but when they are out of school over the weekend, they may not eat at all. It was just a week before that Phenix City schools were out for two days due to snow and ice.
“Some children didn’t eat from Tuesday to Friday,” Backpack Buddies organizers told the crowd. “Because school was out, they didn’t eat.”
That number shook the employees who may not be aware of the food distress children in the area face.
“There’s a lot of us who had no idea, and I had no idea until today,” said Market President Wade Burford as he wiped tears from his eyes. “When you hear that, it’s very humbling and makes you really want to help. I’m involved in United Way so I kind of know, but don’t really know – to not have eaten since Tuesday on a Friday.”
Synovus Bank, formerly CB&T of East Alabama helped pack the bags that children received on Friday. The bags are full of juice, canned fruit, canned food like beans and franks or ravioli, and milk that can help supplement food that may be at home. It’s also food that is easy to microwave or eat without cooking.
“We want to help because this is the way we are, not only corporately, but individually. We’re not here just to make money but to also do what’s right in the community. We’re part of this community and want to be a positive force,” Burford said.
In Phenix City schools, schools are paired with a church group that wants to help. Volunteers pack bags on Wednesday and they are given to the school for distribution on Friday. Dudley, who is part of Summerville United Methodist Church, said he’s helped pack bags at school in the past and wanted to get more involved.
“I noticed a drastic need in our community so I wanted to take charge of that,” he said. When he talks about the number of children who receive help, he said, “I feel like there’s a lot more children who need to be fed that we don’t know about.”