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Back the Pack in Massena receives non-profit status

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MASSENA - Back the Pack, the volunteer organization that provides free healthy weekend snacks to students in Massena’s elementary schools, has officially received its not-for-profit status.

Committee Chairperson Julianne C. Paquin said that the organization received its official notification of their status on Dec. 20.

“We’ve been working on it. We got our notification the Friday before Christmas. It was a wonderful Christmas present. All of our girls are so excited,” she said.

Ms. Paquin said she had received a call from Mark Bogdan, a local certified public accountant who had done the organization’s 501(c)(3) application. He asked her, “Did you get any mail today? Let me tell you, I think there’s a letter in there.”

She found the letter in her mail that day.

“I emailed everyone. Anyone who I didn’t think would get it, I called,” she said.

Ms. Paquin said the group first had to get their incorporation before they could apply for their 501(c)(3) status. They submitted their application for the non-profit status in August.

“We had wonderful help. Dan Pease did our incorporation and Mark Bogdan did our application for the 501(c)(3). They were a wonderful help,” she said.

The group needs $35,000 a year to run the program, which covers the $3,000 a month it costs to provide weekend snacks for 75 children each at Jefferson, Madison and Nightengale elementary schools, as well as Trinity Catholic School. It also covers any extra funding for special purchases they might need to make during the month. They handed out 9,027 packs during the 2012-13 school year.

Fundraising, which is done from August to mid-November, will continue.

“If we have enough money, we save,” Ms. Paquin said, noting they don’t do any fundraising during the holiday season so that other non-profits can benefit.

“The Christmas programs are so important. We don’t want to interfere with that at all,” she said.

While they will continue fundraising, the new status will allow them to apply for grant funding that was not previously available to them. It also gives them the opportunity to obtain food from the Food Bank in Syracuse.

“This has been our goal,” Ms. Paquin said. “On Monday after New Year’s I will be calling the Food Bank of Central New York. You have to be in existence for six months to get anything from the Food Bank. We’ve been in existence for more than two years. Certainly with the school we can shows we’ve been providing these things for over two years.”

The Back the Pack program was started by a group of local volunteers to ensure that children in the Massena’s elementary schools aren’t going hungry over the weekend. Their funding is provided through private donations and fundraising.

Working from the former Arrow building on East Orvis Street, donated to the group by Massena Savings and Loan, Back the Pack members assemble healthy weekend snacks that they provide to students in grades kindergarten through six in Massena’s four elementary schools.

The group gathers the items, puts them in Ziploc bags and distributes them to the schools. Madison Elementary School was the pilot school, and they’ve since expanded to include all of Massena’s elementary schools.

School counselors identify children in need, and they get authorization from those parents to let the students participate in the program.

The teachers put the bags into the students’ backpacks every Friday so they have the snacks to munch on over the weekend.

Among the items the children find are breakfast bars, sandwich crackers, cereals, fruit cups, raisins and fruit punch - whatever can be packed into the Ziploc bag for distribution.

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