By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Since 2017, Crafting For Our Community (CFOC) members have had two “crops” featuring scrapbookers, card-makers and sewers — all for one reason: helping local students.
With raffles and donations from small businesses, money generated from these crops has largely gone toward benefiting Oxford’s Blessings in a Backpack program.
A national organization, the Blessings in a Backpack Program provides students who require free or reduced-price lunches with a backpack of food every Friday. Over 1,000 schoolchildren in Oxford alone qualify for this program.
Steadily growing from $1,700 in their first crop three years ago, the CFOC has contributed approximately $8,400 total to the Blessings in a Backpack Program and appears primed to surpass the $10,000 mark this year — despite COVID-19 hurdles.
Normally their gatherings are in the community room at Journey Lutheran Church at 136 S. Washington Street, the CFOC has, like many events, been forced to alter their normal proceedings due to the coronavirus.
Instead of their traditional Thanksgiving Saturday in-person event, the eighth CFOC crop will be virtual, and can be accessed by joining the CFOC Virtual Crop – Fall 2020 Group on Facebook.
This group is free to join, is accessible to anyone and all interested parties are required to do is answer two Facebook prompt questions before joining.
The virtual crop will run for 10 days, beginning on Friday, November 20 and concluding on November 30.
“This all started in 2016,” Stephanie McFadden, who organizes and runs the crops, said. “In 2016, there was a mom who liked to craft, and we had the Facebook group going, the Oxford Scrapbookers group, and we started getting together virtually, just talking and stuff, and I was like, ‘It would be nice to actually put faces with some of these names, actually meet people, so, how about we get together and do something?’
“The places we knew of were much smaller, so, we asked Pastor Matt (Schuler) the following year, ‘Can we pay you and just use your community room so we can get together?’ He would take no money. He said, ‘Just use it, that’s what it’s for, community use.’ I said no, because we’re taking your space, we’re using your bathroom, your Kleenex, I’m just not doing that. So, in 2017, we came up with the idea, why don’t we raise money for a charity?”
With the CFOC’s total donation to the Blessings in a Backpack Program nearing five figures, the church (then Holy Cross Lutheran Church) played a large role in helping this idea come to fruition. The preschool (at Holy Cross) was collecting money for Blessings in a Backpack, McFadden said.
“We thought if they’re already collecting money, we’ll just add to it. Even if just 100 bucks, let’s pay 10 bucks or so and get together, 100 bucks is better than nothing. That little idea turned into having vendors, and having food, and we can do this. We raised $1,700 that first event, and it went so well in the fall because we had vendors who were selling things, we had people donating stuff for raffles, we decided to do a spring one.”
Even before COVID-19 forced widespread changes to our daily lives, the CFOC was entertaining switching up their modus operandi this fall because of the impact the road construction has had on Oxford’s small businesses.
“Last fall, we were sitting around the tables, and things were going super well again, and we were worried about doing it this fall because of the construction,” McFadden said.
“Looking at the tables last year, we probably had 50-to-60 donation items. I thought, ‘How are we going to ask all these businesses to donate when we knew the roads were going to be torn up?’ And then COVID hit, and I knew there was no way we could ask people this year. Over the summer, we decided we have to go virtual.”
Normally capping their fall crops at 45 tickets, the decision to go virtual is already paying dividends for the CFOC. As of the evening of November 16, the Facebook group has 79 members, and a “not-so-silent” auction of the items donated by local businesses is will benefit Blessings in a Backpack.
McFadden is assisted by her fellow CFOC Committee members, Melissa Clark, Carolyn Howarth, Karen Riddle and Teresa Sirois.
If you are interested in learning more about Blessings in a Backpack, their website is blessingsinabackpackmi.org, and they can also be reached via telephone at 248-221-7749.
By Teddy Rydquist