By Laura Lefko
(September 7, 2022) — September marks the 7th anniversary of the HK Backpack Program. The Backpack Program is a food assistance program in Regional School District 17 that provides breakfast, lunch and dinner for kids on the weekends when school lunch is not available to them.
In 2015 the program’s founder, Amber Stamm, had been attending early childhood committee meetings at HK Youth and Family Services and realized that there wasn’t a food assistance program for kids in Killingworth. She and her husband Bill had supported a similar program in Deep River before moving to Killingworth. Amber was the president of HK Moms at the time and when she approached them with the idea of starting a backpack program here, they eagerly joined her. According to Amber, “the group was really beautiful about it,” placing donation cans in businesses all over town, making donations themselves and holding fundraisers out of her garage.
After a few years, they were asked to share the space which they now occupy with the Killingworth Women’s Organization’s (KWO) Helping Hands program at the circle in Killingworth. The Haddam Killingworth community has welcomed and supported the group and, as Amber said, “it’s so beautiful to be part of a community that is so generous.”
One example of that support was recently shown by Killingworth’s Amanda Brackett, owner of the BarrelHouse Wine Bar in Killingworth. In August, Amanda, along with Feel Good BBQ’s Mike Drew and Jacob Blanton, surprised Amber with a benefit at the BarrelHouse to raise funds for the HK Backpack program. Jacob, Mike, Amanda and her husband Keith organized the event, which raised just under $3,000 and will enable the program to purchase and provide multiple meals of the same items. These much-needed funds will help carry the program into November.
Amanda and Keith have children in the HK school system. She said that the Backpack Program is very important to them, as they understand that there is a real need in our community and that being able to help raise money for the program is easy for them to do because it is something that is so important in our community where not everyone is on a “level playing field.”
Feel Good BBQ was started in 2020. It is a charity barbecue team that is focused solely on fundraising. The group has done similar events for Helping Hands, Ronald McDonald House and others. The team were members of a corporate barbecue team and they got together to start Feel Good BBQ to do something outside of work to help support charity programs. The group donates their time and all the food, which they make themselves. They provided pulled pork, brisket, jalapeno poppers, mac and cheese and coleslaw for the Backpack event, which was cooked and served by Mike and Jacob.
There are several ways to donate to the HK Backpack program. They have an Amazon “wish list,” which can be found on Amazon.com by clicking on “wish lists” and typing in “HK Backpack Program.” Checks can be sent to PO Box 893, Killingworth, CT 06419 There is also a box outside of their building at the circle in Killingworth for food donations, etc. You can also find them here: https://hkbackpackprogram.com
The program’s current needs are fruit cups, shelf stable milk, cereal, oatmeal, canned meat, anything in plastic jars, such as jellies and tomato sauces, and meal kits.
Photo by Laura Lefko