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In 2007, Katie Frey and her sister created a backpack program under the auspices of PHP, to alleviate childhood hunger. Children who suffer from malnutrition are more likely to have a higher rate of absenteeism, to have academic problems, to have increased anxiety, to be withdrawn, and to be a discipline problem within the classroom. Nurses and teachers can identify children that seem to be coming in under-nourished on Monday morning, and put them in the program that sends a backpack’s worth of food with easily prepared food, every Friday to augment the nutrition received over the weekend. The Republic school nurses are instrumental in the success of this program. They go above and beyond to ensure each child goes home with their backpack food every Friday.

Starting with 25 children, the backpack program has increased to include 220 children, each week, this school year. After quickly outgrowing Katie’s garage, then outgrowing the allocated space at PHP, Price Elementary offered one of their unused locker rooms, and now Tiger Totes has ample space for operations! An added bonus is that the Enrichment Team, SPARK, allows students to organize, assemble, and distribute totes for students in their own school. Community volunteers handle the others.

Tiger Totes is funded through Care to Learn, Give Back Republic, Walmart, Kiwanis Club, and the Republic Community Foundation. Other donations from individuals and groups fill in the needed remainder. Thanks so much to the Republic community for supporting this needed program!

The Tiger Totes Story

In 2002, my husband and I lost our full term baby boy named Sawyer. As heartbreaking as this loss was, we knew we needed to somehow keep his memory alive. For the first few anniversaries, we made donations in his honor but In my heart I knew I wanted to do more. One day my sister and I were trying to decide how we could make a meaningful impact in the lives of children. We wondered if Republic had a weekend backpack program similar to those in nearby communities. We discovered that our community did not have one in place. A local backpack program seemed like the answer we needed to make an impact in the lives of children by providing easily prepared meals and snacks to students who may need additional food assistance over the weekend. So we began our Tiger Totes Journey!

People Helping People was the first place we went to see if they could help. They were very encouraging and helped me write a grant to the Community Foundation of Republic. That grant award in April 2007, allowed us to begin the Tiger Totes backpack program. With funding in place, we then looked to the school system and were given their blessing and support. The Republic school nurses graciously agreed to to help us identify the students who would benefit from this program and ensure these are delivered to the students each week.

The program originally served 25 students. These Tiger Totes were assembled and delivered from our garage. As the program grew to over 100, People Helping provided us pantry space for six years and allowed my husband to have his garage back. Recently, we were offered the chance to be housed in Price Elementary where students are given the opportunity to organize, assemble, and distribute these totes for students in their own school. This enrichment team, SPARK, is a meaningful service project that allows students to give directly back to their own community. My heart is so happy to see that the mission of keeping Sawyer’s memory alive has come full circle. We are not only making a meaningful impact on the the lives of the the children who receive Tiger Totes, but also on the SPARK children who are helping through service!

In the last 10 years, Tiger Totes has grown to now serve over 220 Republic children. This would not be possible without this amazingly generous and supportive community that has ensured we have never had to turn a child away. Our family, friends, community,, school nurses, People Helping People, Care to Learn, The Community Foundation, Give Back Republic, Kiwanis, and Walmart have provided immense help with funding, assembling and delivering these totes to ensure food is put in the hands of these children every Friday! Thank you to all who have helped Tiger Totes make a meaningful impact on the lives of children in this community!

Katie Frey

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