Packing for school — times 500

4-H’ers fill backpacks ahead of annual Back to School Bash

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Morgan Bodholdt, 13, of Fort Dodge, left, along with Kara McGonegle, 12, also of Fort Dodge, both members of the Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club, begin their morning of helping to fill backpacks with school supplies Friday at the Crossroads Mall. The backpacks will be distributed during the Back to School Bash next Thursday at the Crossroads Mall from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

When the task at hand involves filling 500 backpacks with school supplies — the contents of each one specific to the student who will receive it — it helps to develop an efficient method.

The volunteer 4-H members who were busy doing that Friday morning at the Crossroads Mall did indeed have it down to a science.

The backpacks filled with supplies will be distributed Thursday at the annual Back To School Bash.

Estella Moffitt, 14, of Fort Dodge, a member of the Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club, has been at it for about five years.

“Look on the list to see what they like,” she said. “Then don’t just pile everything in there. I put the pencils in their box. You took your time, and it looks nice.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Andrea Pavik, of Fort Dodge, along with Dolidh Moffitt, 8, also of Fort Dodge, work on filling backpacks for the Back to School Bash Friday morning at the Crossroads Mall. The pair belong to the Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club.

Supplies are neatly piled on several long rows of tables — stacks of notebooks, piles of pencils, boxes with erasers, cases of folders.

If it’s needed in school, it’s there.

Most of the volunteers adopted the backwards backpack method, where they wore it on their chest as they filled it with supplies.

Kara McGonegle, 12, of Fort Dodge, a member of the Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club, was in her third year of helping.

“I’ve done this twice,” she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Morgan Bodholdt, 13, of Fort Dodge, a member of the Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club, checks her list of supplies as she fills a backpack with school supplies Friday morning at the Crossroads Mall.

Her secret to efficiency, especially when she’s filling several backpacks for a single family’s children.

“I do one bag at a time,” she said. “I work from the oldest to the youngest.”

Morgan Bodholdt, 13, of Fort Dodge, a member of the Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club, used a system very similar to McGonegle’s.

“They go against the wall,” she said. “Pick out all your bags, then do one at a time.”

She’s already gotten her own school supplies ready.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen One of the 4-H volunteers selects a colorful eraser to go into one of the 500 backpacks they filled with school supplies Friday.

“I already have,” she said. “Shopping for them, that’s my favorite part.”

Andrea Pavik, of Fort Dodge, was among the adult 4-H leaders who helped with the packing. She was working with Dolidh Moffitt, 8, of Fort Dodge. They made an efficient team.

Pavik wore the backwards backpack. Moffitt added the items and managed the lists.

It’s been awhile since Pavik’s worn a backpack, much less wore one backwards.

“I feel like I’m setting a trend,” she said.

Luke Vaugh, 14, of Fort Dodge, along with fellow Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club member Payton Hayes, 14, served as co-chairs to organize the work.

It started a while ago.

“Me and my friend had to write a grant.” Vaugh said. “I have never done that. That was a learning experience.”

Once the grant was approved. Then it was on to several work sessions.

“We had to set up a date to get supplies,” he said. “Last Wednesday we had people come to sort. I’m happy that a lot of people know how to help.”

The $10,000 backpack project is funded by Upper Des Moines Opportunity.

Alisa Schlief, family and community services director for the organization, said that the 4-H volunteers have been with them from the very beginning.

“If it wasn’t for the 4-H kids, we wouldn’t have this,” she said. “We rely heavily on them.”

The Back To School Bash is Thursday at the Crossroads Mall from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. In addition to the Upper Des Moines Opportunity backpack distribution, there will also be a variety of activities from many community organizations, along with food.

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