Trucks, SUVs and trailers brought dozens of vendors to the Belle FFA Craft Show as the sun rose on a brisk morning in early November.
Necklaces, keychains and quilts lined the walls and filled tables. All items were sold to benefit kids within the community of Belle, Missouri. In addition, money used to purchase vendor booths, tables and any other necessities also went directly to fund programs for local youth.
Backpack Buddies is one such program. Funds support efforts to send food home each week to assist food insecure families with children in elementary school.
Backpack Buddies was started in 2008, with funding coming from a small, local Methodist Church. The program began by providing 17 meals bi-weekly throughout the school year. Now, Belle Elementary counselor Constance Smith and “helpers” deliver 71 backpacks every week with assistance from the Food Bank of Missouri and local community members.
Money raised through the craft show will also be used to start a student relief fund within the Belle High School. This program will help high school students get everyday items they may not have access to.
Mareta James, agriculture educator at Belle High School, and the Belle FFA Chapter members took the reins to organize the event.
The 23 vendors who set up booths for the second annual craft show helped to bring in $730 dollars to benefit Belle area families. The craft fair has more than quadrupled in size since its beginning.
The money has already been used to help purchase a coat and other winter weather items for students, James said.
“I think it grows the heart to receive nothing back,” Smith said.
In addition to the FFA, other community members and organizations have supported the program by organizing events such as 5k races and school dances.
Smith said she finds it amazing to think that organizations and community members have this in mind.
It’s amazing how much impact we’ve had, said Smith. Starting at 17 bags and now working all the way up to help so many.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen is the responsibility of students wanting to help other students,” Smith said.