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Packing for the Weekend ... for friends

Jack Mech of Cannon Falls receives the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties' Star Volunteer award from Maureen Nelson. The Cannon Falls boy raised more than $2,155 in two weeks for Packing for the Weekend. Behind them is some of the food he also collected. (Photo by Anne Jacobson)

CANNON FALLS — Thirty-one students take home a backpack of food every weekend in Cannon Falls so their families have something to eat over the weekend. When fourth-grader Jack Mech saw a classmate carrying her school backpack plus one more, he asked her why.

"We don't have money," she explained.

He promptly went home and asked his mother if he could empty his piggy bank and take the money to school. "Initially I replied with 'probably not.' Then I decided I needed to foster that benevolence within him," Laura Mech said.

She had him write an appeals letter. On Thursday, Nov. 3, she shared it on Facebook.

"I said if you guys want to give money or food, then that would help us a lot," he said.

The family began collecting food that weekend. Jack admits he was shocked when the first $20 check arrived in the mail.

"You take a little here, there — Oooo," explained Eric Mech, which prompted his son to lift his arms higher and higher, smile and then spin around.

The "oooo" reached $2,155 in just over two weeks. Jack presented his check and six bags of groceries on Monday to Maureen Nelson, executive director of the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce counties. The United Way coordinates Packing for the Weekend programs in six school districts.

"Do you know how many backpacks that will fill?" Nelson asked. "Do you know how many plates this will fill?

Doing the math in the Cannon Falls Elementary School hallway, they calculated that it takes about $10 to fill a backpack — thanks to purchasing power of 26 cents on the dollar through Channel One food bank — so the donation will fill more than 200 backpacks or 600 meals for a total of more than 2,400 plates filled.

Jack's personal appeal has ended, but people can contribute to Packing for the Weekend through the "Fill an Empty Plate, Feed a Hungry Child" campaign taking place Nov. 25 through Dec. 24.

People may buy and sign a paper plate at Merchants Bank locations, the Red Wing Republican Eagle and the United Way office. The plates will decorate windows and lobbies until Christmas. The minimum donation is $5 and all money will stay in the community, Nelson said. Make checks out to United Way of GWP.

People also may drop off food anytime during regular business hours at the United Way office, 413 W. Fourth St.

Packing for the Weekend served 58,000 meals throughout the area last year.

For more information, call 651-388-6309.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson is news director with RiverTown Multimedia. 

(651) 301-7870