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Pay It Forward: Giving Children Hope - We've Got Your Back

A We've Got Your Back volunteer prepares a backpack for a child in need at the Giving Children Hope warehouse.
May 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's a growing homeless issue in Orange County and, as is often the case, children are particularly affected. But now, an organization called Giving Children Hope in Buena Park is using an innovative approach to make sure homeless children don't go hungry.We're all used to seeing school kids carrying backpacks filled with books, but dozens of Buena Park kids line up each week for backpacks stuffed with food from the organization's We've Got Your Back program. For some, these will be their only meals all weekend long.

Lupe says the pasta included in the backpack is a lifeline. She lost her home and lives in a cramped motel room with an often empty refrigerator and five kids to feed, including a baby. She says with the food provided by We've Got Your Back, her children get enough to eat and don't go hungry.

Patricia Neill submitted the video nominating the Giving Children Hope program for ABC7's Pay It Forward grant. She collects food at her office every week and brings it to the Giving Children Hope warehouse.

"These children are a part of the community that nobody really looks at," said Neill.

"We know these children are receiving food Monday through Friday because they are on the free and reduced lunch program, but when the school cafeteria closes, this is where Giving Children Hope wants to step in," said program director Elizabeth Saldana.

Giving Children Hope was founded to deliver disaster supplies to kids in developing nations. The organization then started the We've Got Your Back program when the founder saw so many local kids in need.

"That was kind of surprising, shocking to us. Being around the world and being in clinics and hospitals and seeing just absolutely nothing there, but then coming home and seeing and hearing the same kinds of things here, we knew that we had to do something," said John Ditty, founder and CEO of Giving Children Hope.

The backpacks aren't only stuffed with nutritious food but also with homework assignments about nutrition. If they complete enough of them and give them back, then the kids get prizes.

"Our kids nowadays are coming up really young with diabetes and it will prevent a lot of that, I'm hoping," said Theresa Myles-Campbell, whose child participates in the We've Got Your Back program.

The demand is growing faster than volunteers can afford to keep up with so they need help. And the kids' faces convinced our judges to act.

With the $7,000 they will receive to pay it forward, Saldana says they will be able to give more than 6,000 meals to children.

"It just makes me emotional when I hear this because we have met the kids and we have met the families that benefit from all this. So this is a huge impact," said Saldana.

Giving Children Hope says about 3,000 kids are dependent on their backpacks every week and that need is only expected to grow.

If you would like to contact Giving Children Hope about the We've Got Your Back program or donate to the organization, go to http://www.gchope.org/weve-got-your-back or call (714) 523-4454.


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