Inside, the home is anything but an ordinary space. Its dining room walls are lined with stocking shelves like those out of a grocery store while shopping bags packed with sustenance for a whole weekend fill the living room floor.
The home is owned by Tina Kramer and used as a headquarters for the New Canaan chapter of Blessings in a Backpack. It's an organization that provides backpacks full of food to provide for children on assistance programs to ensure they have something to eat on days they aren't in school. Kramer and Shawnee Knight started the local chapter and, when Patch initially covered them in September, they were entering their first year by taking on the needs of 100 children at Stamford's Trailblazer's Academy.
"It's amazing," said Tina Kramer, co-leader for the local chapter of Blessings in a Backpack. "It's such a good feeling, to be able to provide for these kids that need it and involve kids from our own community to pack these bags, show them how fortunate they are and how important it is to help those who need it. Getting involved with a program like this humanizes those in need, shows them these are kids with real needs their own age."
Groups like SLOB, the New Canaan Cheerleaders, Brownies, CCD classes and Youth Football have all pitched in in some way to help the program, from packing bags to running donation fundraisers.
Now, at the midway point for the school year, they've been able to add 50 more students to assist from Bedford Hills Elementary School in Bedford, NY. A number of factors contributed to that possibility. Blessings in a Backpack restricts chapters to spending about $4 per child, per weekend. Chapters can take on any number of students they feel they can successfully provide for during the fulfillment of a three-year commitment, but they are limited in allowable spending per backpack.
"We're through the first half and are into the second half of our school year," said Knight. "We've taken on 50 additional kids. We'll take on as many as we can afford. We'd like to raise enough to care for another 100 next year as well."
Thanks to a number of generous donations received from various donors, Kramer and Knight were able to provide more food for a greater number of students, as donations do not count against the running total for student backpacks. They received donations from food drives hosted by the East, South, and West schools, as well as donations like 7,000 bags of kettle chips and 800 packages of yogurt.
"We can't afford things like cereal to give out on our budget because of the set limit we're allowed to spend per weekend, so we have to rely on donations," said Knight. "It allows for a little extra something to be thrown in that we don't have to subtract from our costs."
On Thursday, the bare shelves of the headquarters were filled with tons of food and then some, boxes and cases lining aisles top-to-bottom turned into stacks piles scattered about on any open floorspace to be found.
"We did this the first time in September, and we were asked to help again," Said Ofc. Jason Ferraro. "Last time it was mostly our SWAT guys. This time we had some help from the Patrol Division. It's great when we can get involved in stuff like this and are able to get back to the community. It's something we enjoy doing and it's a lot different from the normal responsibilities we have in the community."
The New Canaan officers who gave freely of their time included:
- NCPD Intern James Wagner
- Ofc. Tom Callinan
- Ofc. Marc DeFelice - SWAT
- Ofc. Tom Patten - SWAT
- Ofc. Scott Romano - SWAT
- Sgt. Pete Condos
- Sgt. Joe Farenga - SWAT
- Sgt. Jason Ferraro - SWAT
- Sgt. Lou Gannon
- Sgt. Andrew Walsh - SWAT
- Lt. Bill Ferri
- Capt. Vincent DeMaio
- Capt. John DiFederico
Also, special guest Donovan Green
from Oxygen Fitness and personal trainer to Dr. Oz was on hand, carrying
huge stacks into the home.
Two quick updates: The story originally read the organization had $1 per child, per weekend. It's actually $4. And please note the date of the tournament is May 6, not the 5th.