Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 8:59 pm

Clubs: Smart Sacks

Time: Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m.
Place: Media Center
Sponsor: Ilene Catzva
President: None
Fifteen backpacks, brimming with food, are lined up on a table inside the Media Center offices. The scene may seem unimportant at first - the backpacks are used and the office is temporarily deserted. But in a few moments, Ilene Catzva will shuttle the bags to Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park and by the weekend, they will reach the homes of families in need.

Catzva, one of Blair's media specialists, came up with "Smart Sacks" while talking to a friend on the Manna Food Center board. The Manna Food Center, located in Rockville, has been collecting and distributing food for 25 years. In most cases, corporations team up with Manna in order to provide "food backpacks" for families via kids at schools. Blair, on Catzva's own initiative, is the only school to aid another school.

After school Wednesdays, anywhere from three to nine students show up in the Media Center to help Catzva pack the backpacks. By this time, Catzva has already picked up donated food boxes from Manna and has even supplemented the goods with some of her own things.

"I wanted to give the kids and their families a little something extra to look forward to every weekend," Catzva says. "The books were an easy thought because I'm a librarian, and then I just had fun with it."

Other than adding donated books to the backpacks, Catzva says she has included school supplies and holiday treats, including a bag of candy for Halloween and gel pens on Valentine's Day.

Once the backpacks are full and ready, Catzva takes them to Piney Branch. Prior to the formation of "Smart Sacks," Catzva contacted Piney Branch about such a program. "They were really excited," Catzva remembers. "It was very encouraging." A counselor at Piney Branch selected 15 families to receive the donations anonymously.

By Friday the backpacks are distributed to the kids, who then use its contents over the weekend. The backpacks may be filled with anything from canned fruit to tuna fish to Easy Mac. The kids are given Monday and Tuesday to return the backpacks to Piney Branch, which are then transported back to Catzva at Blair.

"It's a great little cycle," Catzva says. "And I'm certainly proud to be a part of it."

If interested in joining Smart Sacks, please contact Ilene Catzva in the Media Center.

Club beat by Greg Kohn