What It Truly Means To Be Better Together
In a world that is reeling it is often hard to find things about which to celebrate, but in the
places one least expects it there is hope.
Backpack Blessings Beaufort/Down East has helped meet the needs of children who
struggle for 12 years. From its inception it has truly been a grassroots effort. Terese
Ewing, a savvy elementary school principal at BES approached the then fledgling Loaves
and Fishes to get them to help kids whose needed a proverbial “leg up” to get food for
weekend meals. There were just 10 at first. Ann Street Methodist, Core Creek
Methodist, Calvary Baptist and Grace Presbyterian joined hands and hearts to provide
needed supplies. Before long Beaufort Ole Towne Rotary provided funds through their
international organization to expand efforts to the Down East schools and other schools
in Beaufort and today all 160 kids in all 7 schools including Tiller get these gifts of food.
Today more than ever it is a community effort. The bags are packed by volunteer groups
from churches all over the Down East/Beaufort/Core Creek area and the food and funds
are donated from many venues. Ever resourceful businesses, civic groups, churches and
individuals in essence invite children to a place at their community table by giving what
is needed. Some businesses like Inn on Turner help make patrons aware of the program.
Businesses such Farm Bureau draw support from their corporate efforts all the while
helping as individuals to provide special holiday foods and give from their own
individual resources. Civic groups like Beaufort Women’s Club, the Lions, Beaufort Ole
Town Rotary and Franklin Lodge have given significant financial support. Others have
leveraged grant gifts from the parent organization like Dunkin’ Donuts. Long time
church supporters are joined by additional congregations.
This year when the challenges of the pandemic could have made funding a deal breaker
families would not let it lose momentum and gave even more zealously. Even some folks
gave their stimulus checks. Packers did not stand down….they forged ahead and
reinvented their methods to insure that the program would go on when it was needed
most. But the story that stands out is one family where the children did their part.
In the households of the Blake’s and the Buttry’s Backpack is no stranger. For years
family members have shopped, packed, delivered, supported and ordered food to make
this effort seamless. But this year at VBS Meredith Buttry was reminded again about
kids like her who really never have quite enough to eat and even without telling family
she donated money she had saved….$120….a lot for one little girl…..to the program
when her DVBS collected funds. Not to be outdone, her cousin Lexi Blake, just 6 said “I
want to help kids too” and to that end during the holidays she and her mom, Amber
decorated and sold shells and gathered $1400.
When you ask Lexi she says simply that she does not do it for the “hoorah’s” but for
Jesus. This is not all she or Meredith do. Meredith helps deliver the bags to rooms at
BES and Lexi helps unload the truck, set up and pack bags.
The important lesson here though is not even the gifts, though that is crucial. The
important lesson is that children learn to give of themselves and their resources by
watching the example of others around them and that parents at all levels are teaching
their children that the best way to give the gift is to BE the gift.
For the last 18 years I have watched and benefited from a community that said “We are
all in this together” before it was a catch phrase. They have been Carteret Strong in more
than name only. They understand the value of unified support, community spirit and
When we first arrived we saw Sheriff Asa Buck standing in a suit and tie at the Salvation
Army kettle on a Friday night with a smile on his face. When I worked with Station Club
and the folks at the ARC, people like the Hannel’s spawned Forever Friends and later
their daughter, Savannah, started Abide as a way to bring joy to dozens of adults with
special needs. Most importantly they found a way to teach people who were usually on
the receiving end how to give and serve and share themselves. I saw Lions Club
members like Tom Snively not only do his duty as a member but at home, train service
dogs so that others may have an easier life. As a social worker at DSS I have seen so
many people do simple acts of kindness by delivering Meals on Wheels, providing rides
and operating food shelves, equipment closets and a host of other things as they stand in
the gap for those who often must stand alone. Carol Stone has crocheted her way through
hats, scarves, sweaters and mittens to insure that each child in the Backpack program can
“shop” for their own holiday gift. Volunteers from area Methodist churches have helped
innumerable people recover from hurricanes. Volunteers from all walks of life came
together to get this community vaccinated. And in recognition of the one thing that is
destroying us from the inside out: addiction, we have banned together to say “no more” to
drugs and alcohol through various community led addiction programs like those at
Loaves and Fishes. These are just a few of so many ways that people say “let me help.”
Sadly our personal lives have taken us in a different direction but to say that we have
learned and shared so much in your presence and are so grateful for you and all that you
have done to make our lives better, stronger, happier, healthier and more fun is an
understatement. We watch the news every night and all we can say about the misfortunes
we see there is NOT HERE….NO YOU DON’T….we are turning the tide.
Thank you for your love, friendship, kindness and the privilege of being able to call this
home for almost two decades. You continue in our thoughts and prayers.
Pege Jennings and Ken Bobbitt, Jr.
1918 Paulette Road
Morehead City, NC 28557