Phoenix High School Student Caitlin George aids OCO blizzard Bag Program
Each year OCO Nutrition Services distributes hundreds of Blizzard Bags to clients in its home delivered meals program. Blizzard Bags are filled with a variety of food items in the event that meals are unable to be delivered due to inclement weather.
OCO collects donations of food items for the bags from area businesses, organizations, and community members. Once collected volunteers from area schools, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops sort the items and fill the Blizzard Bags. Each bag is decorated and includes a handmade holiday greeting.
“We are very grateful for the support we receive from the community,” said Nutrition Services Support Manager Christine Parks. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without our volunteers.
One of these volunteers is Caitlin George. A junior and a National Honor Society member at J.C. Birdlebough High School in Phoenix, Caitlin was in fifth grade when her brother Jonathan and his friend Nicole Hetko volunteered to make their own Blizzard Bags. She helped them as they collected items, decorated, and filled the bags. That first year they donated 70 Blizzard Bags to OCO.
Each year the number of Blizzard Bags they donated increased. When her brother graduated, Caitlin was inspired to continue making Blizzard Bags. “I enjoy it,” said Caitlin, who is pictured here assembling a few of the bags. “Making Blizzard Bags and knowing that I am helping others gives me a real adrenaline rush!”
This year Caitlin’s goal is to make 150 Blizzard Bags. To reach this ambitious goal Caitlin begins writing letters and visiting businesses in the summer so that she’ll be able to collect the items needed fill each bag. “I’ve found that most of the businesses I contact are very willing to help. Wegman’s and Fulton Savings Bank are exceptionally helpful,” said Caitlin.
Last winter OCO distributed more than 600 blizzard bags, with another 100 distributed to clients at OCO’s Dining and Activity centers. “Thanks to Caitlin’s efforts we anticipate delivering even more this year,” said Parks. “Caitlin’s commitment to this program is truly heartwarming. It’s overwhelming to think that Caitlin can put together 150 Blizzard Bags on her own. It’s great to see a young person so concerned about older people and willing to donate their time to helping them.”
Each “Blizzard Bag” is individually prepared and labeled and contains an assortment of food items along with a cheery note to brighten the recipient’s day and explain the purpose of the “Blizzard Bag”. OCO’s Nutrition Services will once again partner with volunteers and other community members to gather food items, decorate food bags and prepare them for delivery when needed.
OCO is currently accepting donations of food and paper bags. Donation boxes can be found in the lobby of OCO’s main office, 239 Oneida St. in Fulton; OCO Nutrition Services’ kitchen site at 5871 Scenic Ave. in Mexico; and at any of OCO’s Dining and Activity Centers. For more information on donating or volunteering to assist with OCO’s “Blizzard Bag” project you may contact Christine Parks at 598-4712 ext. 1807.