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Proceeds from new event will support local Backpack Buddies program in Estacada schools

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: YVONNE STAVE - The ukulele group at Eagle Creek Presbyterian Church will play during the upcoming baked potato feed.

An upcoming fundraiser at Eagle Creek Presbyterian Church will help connect local students with food.

The ladies aid of the Eagle Creek Presbyterian Church is hosting a new event called the "Great Loaded Baked Potato Feed," which will benefit the local backpack buddies program. The event is scheduled from 3:30-7 p.m. Friday, May 4, at the church, 29455 S.E. Burnett Road. Admission is $5 per person.

Two of the event's organizers, Paula Cooper and Yvonne Stave, are eager to continue to support the Backpack Buddies program, which Cooper started at Eagle Creek Presbyterian Church seven years ago. The program connects students who qualify for free or reduced lunch with a bag of food to take home. Backpack Buddies, which is housed at Estacada First Baptist Church, is supported financially by Eagle Creek Presbyterian Church, Springwater Presbyterian Church and Estacada First Baptist.

Each week, 42 students from River Mill Elementary School, Clackamas River Elementary School and Estacada Middle School receive food through the Backpack Buddies program. Backpack Buddies volunteers work with school counselors to respect student confidentiality.

"(The program) is a security, that when they they go home that they have something (to eat)," Cooper said. "These kids face food scarcity. It's overwhelming. When you have it in your life, it affects everything."

Though the "Great Loaded Baked Potato Feed" is a new event this year, organizers hope it becomes an annual tradition to support the backpack buddies program.

Organizers are planning on baking 60 potatoes. There will also be "a ton of toppings," as well as live music from the church's ukulele band for attendees to enjoy.

Cooper and Stave are looking forward to community involvement during the event.

"It gives people an opportunity to support the Back-

pack Buddies program," Stave said.

Though Eagle Creek Presbyterian Church is a small congregation with fewer than 30 members, the group's dedication to backpack buddies and other community programs is quite large. They also appreciate collaborating with their fellow Estacada area churches on the Backpack Buddies program.

"One person said, 'Your struggling little church has no business taking on a program that big because you won't be able to meet all the needs," Cooper recalled.

"If you take a small step, you can accomplish a lot and build a family of people who are interested in it. The longevity (of Backpack Buddies) has been grand."

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