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Oscar Zurita created a fun design and students helped push through a special bag for kids

The North Marion Backpack Buddies program had a dilemma -- the local program, which provides weekend meals to kids at risk of food insecurity, had grown to more than 100 primary and intermediate students per week.

Food donations were keeping up, but it was becoming more difficult for volunteers to collect adequate numbers of used plastic shopping bags each week to hold the food. The plastic bags, which were not environmentally friendly, often broke. Nice, strong paper bags with a cheerful design would be the answer.

Canby Rotary members heard about the dilemma and offered to help by providing local and district grant money to purchase environmentally friendly paper bags from local Canby bag producer, Package Containers, Inc.

PHIL HAWKINS - Bags designed by Oscar Zurita, an art student at NMHS, show off some of his work for the Backpack Buddies program.

Canby Rotarians discussed having North Marion art students work on a design, so during a conversation about local arts and support for the art department at North Marion High School, Rotary member Craig Johnson and former Aurora Arts Association Director Susan Black came up with an idea. Why not offer an honorarium to the North Marion High School honors art department to come up with a design for the bags?

The Aurora Arts Association had funds left over from their last art show that they donated to cover the honorarium, as well as some needed supplies for the students. Sara Bailey and her talented students at North Marion High School took on the challenge.

The result was enough bright, cheerful, and strong bags to support the North Marion Backpack Buddies program for the next two years. The artwork, featuring caring characters named "Huckles" and "Berry," demonstrate how much fun it can be looking out for one another. The concept was the brainchild of Oscar Zurita, a member of the North Marion honors art class.

On April 29 the students from Sara Bailey's North Marion High School art class took a field trip to Package Containers, Inc. in Canby to watch more than 10,000 bags get printed. Canby Rotary members picked up the bags and delivered them to the location where the Backpack Buddies program has their food storage.

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