Buddypacks fill need of Sandy’s young victims

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Heart of America Katrina Relief2 by Picasa.
(Photo courtesy Heart of America) Heart of America successfully carried out their Buddypack project after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Two Katrina victims show off the books they received from Heart of America.

There are businesses to reconstruct, flood waters to be cleared and debris that needs to be swept up.

Hurricane Sandy left people without power, with severely damaged homes and with questions of how to begin life again. One organization in Washington, D.C. is helping from the ground up and beginning with children.

The Heart of America Foundation started Operation Buddypack in the wake of Sandy’s devastation. The program is asking volunteers to fill 5,000 backpacks with books, school supplies and basic hygiene products by Thanksgiving. Megan Conrad, a BYU political science major and intern at the foundation, said the need is especially important as the holidays are nearing.

“We’d really love them (children) to have these in hand, something to bring them comfort during the holidays,” Conrad said. “We’d love to accommodate as many children as possible.”

The program is not new. Heart of America Foundation propelled the same project after Hurricane Katrina. People who wish to contribute can find the foundation’s address and a list of items on its website. Needed items range from toothpaste to mittens and stuffed animals. Negotiations are underway to arrange drop-off locations in Utah and other states. People also have the option of donating money.

HOA is hoping BYU students can collaborate and gather enough backpacks and supplies so a mass shipment to D.C. can be made. Conrad believes BYU students have the ability even though they are thousands of miles away from the destruction and have only viewed it through media outlets.

“BYU is unique in that we come from all over the country and all over the world. Many students know what living on the East Coast is like and know what it’s like to be hit by a natural disaster,” she said. “I think they can empathize with that. We’re taught in the Church to reach out to others. This is a very practical application of that principle.”

Tied down with classes, work and other obligations, BYU students may wonder if there is much they can do for those in need back East.

“I think as students there are not a lot of things we can do to help with the situation,” said Audrey Warren, a geology major from Mesa, Ariz. “But this is an easy way we can do it because it doesn’t cost a lot.”

Heart of America began in 1997 and is geared to help children succeed. Christine Feller, assistant director of development at HOA, said that while millions of people need assistance after the storm, children should not be forgotten.

“Children are our future, and there is nothing more important than their future,” she said. “We’re looking at such major devastation, we want to make sure this very important group of people isn’t lost in this situation.”

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