COOS BAY — On a Thursday morning, the Rev. Laura Ann Rockwell Beville, pastor of Harmony United Methodist Church, quietly delivers dozens of packages to Blossom Gulch Elementary School classrooms — each one loaded with enough nutritional snacks — crackers, string cheese, fruit, cereal — for at least two meals.
The teachers then will collect the "snack packs" and distribute them, anonymously, to children they've identified as in need of additional nutrition. And there are a lot of them.
More than half the children in the Coos Bay School District qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. At Blossom Gulch, that number is 58 percent.
"It's definitely growing. And it's getting worse," Harmony church member and program organizer Margaret Wauer said.
Wauer and her husband, Arlin, are in their eighth year of assembling snack packs for Blossom Gulch, a program that began after she attended a seminar that offered suggestions for ways church congregations could help their communities.
The Blossom Gulch snack pack program exists due to the generosity of volunteers with their time, as well as local businesses and nonprofits with money and supplies, Wauer said.
What started as 50 packs a week has grown to 110 packs a week, more than 400 distributed every month of the school year.
"And we would actually like to do more," Wauer said.
The Wauers and a handful of other volunteers meet once a month, at Harmony UMC, to pack snacks, which then are delivered to Blossom Gulch. Once a week, Beville comes by the school to hand out packs.
This is the first year Beville's handled delivery. Her daughter attends the school, and delivering snack packs affords her the opportunity to see her daughter and her friends.
"This is the best thing that I do every week," Beville said.
While the packages are delivered anonymously, Wauer said that hasn't stopped students and their families from offering their gratitude for the donations. She recalled one incident in particular, which she said has stuck with her over the years.
A boy who attended Blossom Gulch several years ago once approached Wauer when he saw her.
"And he said, 'That day I got my bag, it had a big carrot in it, and boy that made me so happy.' That meant the world to him, that he had that carrot."
Anyone interested in donating time, money or supplies to the Blossom Gulch Snack Pack program can call Wauer at 541-267-8363 or Harmony UMC at 541-267-4410.