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Non-Profit Spotlight: Blessings in a Backpack

It’s seems hard to believe, but even in our bubble of plenty there are children who are homeless and who don’t have enough to eat. Blessings in a Backpack is an national organization with local chapters run by dedicated volunteers who pack a bag every week for kids to have something to eat on the weekends. One of the women who has been instrumental in feeding kids in St. Johns County is Robbin Ossi. Here is her story and more on how you can help.

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How long have you lived in PVB or Beaches area?  Matt and I have lived in our same house for 23 years.

What is your favorite thing about PVB? My favorite thing is the small town feel of PVB, and its proximity to all the beach municipalities. I rarely “cross the ditch”!

What started  Blessings in a Backpack? Friends of mine were classroom volunteers at The Webster School and Crookshank Elementary in West St. Augustine. These are Full-Service, Title 1 schools with a lot of at-risk kids. While volunteering, they saw the teachers’ snack drawers from which they fed their students on Monday mornings. We didn’t realize how many St. Johns County students had food insecurities! We started the St. Johns chapter of Blessings in a Backpack after reading about the program at Seabreeze Elementary, and thought it might be a good fit for us and our own kids. We self-funded the program for 17 students in each of these two schools and had our kids pack the backpacks in my game room. Six years later, we merged with the Duval group to form the First Coast Chapter and have multiple packing groups feeding 500 students in 8 St. Johns County schools!

How long have you been doing Blessings in a Backpack? We started the St. Johns County program for the 2009/2010 school year. This is our 6th year in operation.

What should people know about the program? The cool thing about Blessings in a Backpack is that 100% of all donations goes directly to feeding kids. Each $100 donation sponsors one child with backpacks of weekend food during the entire school year. Another fun fact is that food backpacks designated for our two Ponte Vedra elementary schools are packed by PV High School students! Not to be outdone, the Nease IB students are shopping, packing and delivering 200 weekly backpacks to The Webster School! We are truly a neighbor helping neighbor, students helping students organization. Check out our website for more information on our program and how you can help:

What are your hobbies outside of your profession? Technically, Blessings in a Backpack is my hobby! I sit on the First Coast Chapter’s Board of Directors as the St. Johns County Program Coordinator. I must admit, however, that my soul is refreshed each time I mess about in my gardens.

If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why? I’m a recent empty-nester so my lunch date choice is my boys and their friends. They’re hilarious!

What was your favorite subject in school? English

What is your favorite football team? We’re a divided household. Since my husband is a die-hard Gator, I’ve stepped up to be the Seminole parent. Fear the Spear ya’ll!!

What is your favorite book? I am a voracious reader with a lousy memory for titles! The first title that comes to mind is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Favorite and least favorite trend in your business? My favorite trend is seeing how generous people are when it comes to feeding children in our community. It warms my heart! My least favorite trend is hearing that our program schools have a waiting list of students wanting to be part of our program.

If you can change one thing about Ponte Vedra, what would it be? We need more restaurants!!

Last time you laughed out loud uncontrollably? And why? It was probably with my book club. We tend to venture onto ridiculous topics of discussion unrelated to any literature.

Your suggestion for a Ponte Vedra mascot? I’m thinking tree frogs because there must be 1,000 of those little guys living in my back yard and croaking all night!

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