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Jefferson Elementary School

Using funds raised at The Friends of Saint Francis annual golf outing, The Friends adopted Jefferson Elementary School in Cape Girardeau to provide backpacks of food during the 2018-2019 school year as well as thousands of meals through the summer months with the Summer Tiger Bites Feeding Program.

Astoundingly one hundred percent of students at Jefferson Elementary School meet the qualifications to receive free meals during the school year. With the backpack program, students receive food to take home to ensure they have meals every weekend.

Jimmy Wilferth, Vice President of Foundation and Marketing at Saint Francis Healthcare System, said that the need does not stop just because school is out for the weekend and summer months.

Members of The Friends of Saint Francis and Jamie Jones, Jefferson Elementary Parent Liaison (center), pose with handprint artwork made by Jefferson Elementary students.
Members of The Friends of Saint Francis and Jamie Jones, Jefferson Elementary Parent Liaison (center), pose with handprint artwork made by Jefferson Elementary students.

“We have to step in and fill the gap for these kids,” Wilferth added. “And we need to love on them in this way so they can grow and mature into whatever God created them to be.”

The backpacks are filled with a variety of canned vegetables, fruit cups, canned soups, chili, saltines and spaghetti in addition to cereal, oatmeal, toaster pastries, apple juice and snack crackers.

“We have proven many times that the children who receive the backpacks are much more alert and focused because they had this food,” Jamie Jones, Jefferson Elementary Parent Liaison, said. “I’m so thankful because we could not do this without Saint Francis.”

A volunteer from The Friends delivers the backpacks to the school every Thursday during the school year. The kids go home with a backpack every Friday. The names of children are not labeled on any bags. Teachers receive lists of who should receive a bag and distribute the bags to the children as they leave school.

Ryan Bandermann, Manager and Physical Therapist in Outpatient Rehabilitation Services, volunteers with The Friends. He says seeing the children’s faces when he distributes the backpacks is very fulfilling.

“Our work at Saint Francis is truly a ministry,” Bandermann said. “We touch many lives each and every day within these walls, however our ministry extends much farther than that. Being able to serve our community in this way, especially children, is exactly what being the hands and feet of Christ is all about. We are commanded by Christ to take care of these individuals and I am honored to work for an organization that understands that.”

Last summer, The Friends provided more than 67,000 meals for Jefferson students and their families through the Tiger Bites Summer Feeding Program. For ten weeks, boxes of food worth $100 were given to families who typically depend on school lunches and the backpack program. The Friends is once again providing the Tiger Bites Summer Feeding Program in 2019 through funds raised at The Friends of Saint Francis Golf Tournament.