by Karli Gillespie and David Prince–
The holidays may be known as the season of giving, but at Saint Michael Lutheran Church, they believe that every season is a time to give – and through their program Micah’s Backpack they accomplish just that.
Micah’s Backpack is a program that helps underprivileged students in the Blacksburg area by providing weekly food packages so that they have food on the table for the weekend.
“Every Thursday night we pull all the food, donated from the community and purchased by us, out of our food room and we set it up in bins,” said Director of Micah’s Backpack Susan Verbrugge. “Then [volunteers] come around pull one thing out of every bin, put in their bags, they come through and give their bags to volunteers who designate the bags for every school. Then after packing or on Friday morning we deliver those packages to the various schools and daycare centers.”
What started as a very small program, eight years later has grown to have tremendous impact on our Blacksburg community. In 2008, Saint Michael Lutheran Church only had enough money raised to provide five food packages to Kipps Elementary School just down the road. But now, with extensive community volunteering and donations, they make on average 296 food packages per week, according to Verbrugge, and reaches all ten Blacksburg schools and two additional head-start programs.
According to Micah’s Backpack official website, the program delivered over 1,100 food packages and provided more than 7,000 meals in November 2016 alone.
But who is “Micah” behind Micah’s Backpack? While many assume it is a child who inspired the program, the name actually refers to the root of the programs religious start.
“The pastor of [Saint Michael] was trying to think of a name for this program that they had come up with, and they decided that they wanted it to have some type of biblical name, because at first it was very much a St. Michael Lutheran church project,” Verbrugge says. “So he was thinking, and he finally came up with a bible passage that is from the Book of Micah. It’s Micah 6:8 which says, ‘what does the lord require of you, but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.'”
Even though Micah’s Backpack has grown from a church program to a community-wide program, it has retained its name through the years.
Micah’s Backpack Student Intern Dina Huynh is one of the many Virginia Tech students who volunteer weekly with the program. Huynh has been volunteering at Micah’s Backpack for over two years, and explains that what keeps her coming back is the family-like community of the program.
“It’s the family. Most of the time when we do service, we help the community,” said Huynh. “What I really like about this project is that you are serving with the community, which makes such a big difference…you know Blacksburg is a such a great community, but you really don’t know until you serve with them. They are all such kind-hearted people.”