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Kids make a difference to kids ... you can too

Aubrey Pavlatos, 7, helped raise money for the BackPack Program by selling lemonade and cupcakes. Jamie Lund/PineJournal1 / 2
Sophia Wesland, 13, of Fargo, N.D., and her cousins Bennett Pavlatos, 3, and Aubrey Pavlatos, 7, of Cloquet moniter their lemonade stand in August. The girls made cupcakes and lemonade to raise money for the Red River Zoo in Fargo and the BackPack Program in Cloquet. Special to the Pine Journal2 / 2

Washington Elementary second-grader Aubrey Pavlatos and her cousin recently raised enough money to feed 13 children in the Carlton County BackPack Program for one week, or one child for 13 weeks.

When the helpful 7-year-old visited relatives in Fargo, N.D., in August, she and her cousin Sophia Welsand, 13, made cupcakes and lemonade to sell at a stand her uncle built for the girls.

"Sophia frosted the cupcakes and I put the sprinkles on," Aubrey said proudly.

According to Aubrey, another relative in Cloquet suggested the girls donate part of the money they made to the area BackPack Program.

The BackPack Program provides children who are at risk of being hungry for a variety of reasons with nutritious snacks and other child-friendly, non-perishable foods. The children take home a backpack filled with food on weekends and school vacations to provide them with healthy meals when they may otherwise not have access.

They donated the other half of the money to the Red River Zoo in Fargo that specializes in rare, cold climate animals.

The young entrepreneurs raised about $108 total.

When asked how it feels to help other kids, Aubrey replied, "It feels good."

The BackPack Program is a nationwide program that Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank promotes. Second Harvest is the region's only food bank and rescuer of nationally and regionally donated food for 180 non-profit programs and approximately 44,000 people in need throughout northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin, according to their website. Second Harvest serves eight counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin — including Carlton County, which joined the BackPack Program in 2012.

Over the last five years, an estimated 1,200 kids have been fed through the program in Carlton County.

Many local organizations donate to the program, including Zion Lutheran Church, Moose Lodge, the Eagles and Maurices. Individuals are also welcome to donate to the backpack program.

"It's a $130,000 a year program," said Second Harvest Executive Director Shaye Moris.

Schools that participate in Carlton County include Barnum, Cloquet, Moose Lake and Wrenshall. An estimated 150-200 students a week take home a backpack of food to help get them through the weekend in Carlton County.

"We look to the schools and staff to identify a need," said Moris.

For several years the Carlton County United Way has donated part of the proceeds from its TasteFest event to the backpack program, including $3,100 last year. However, this summer they were busy moving offices and didn't have time to put on TasteFest.

It costs $3.86 to fill each weekend backpack with nutritious entrees such as low-sodium soups or rice meals, cereal, shelf-stable milk, a can of fruit or vegetables and some type of healthy snack.

With access to donated food, discounted purchasing, warehouse space, equipment, trucks and volunteers, Second Harvest provides a valuable link from food sources to children in need.

For more information or to make a donation visit the website at www.northernlakesfoodbank.org/ or mail a check to Second Harvest, 4503 Airpark Blvd., Duluth, MN 55811 and include "BackPack Program" on the memo line.

"Donators can have a huge impact with a small amount of money," said Moris.

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