A website of their very own

MIS students hard at work on the 31 Backpacks website during their web design class.

The non-profit organization 31 Backpacks has been operating for a little more than one year, and is now taking a technical step forward with a website created by Michigan Technological University students.

Begun in October 2012 by Laurel and Melissa Maki, and friend Amy Zadawa, the 31 Backpacks program involves identifying children who may be going hungry over a weekend because there isn’t enough food in the house or apartment, getting parents’ permission to send food home with them, then filling the backpacks with enough food items for the weekend. None of the people involved with the organization know the identity of the students getting the food.

The website for 31 Backpacks is being created by students in a web design class of Russell Louks, Tech professor of practice in the School of Business.

“Laurel and Melissa came to my office one day and said they needed a website,” he said.

He assigned the construction of the website to seven students in two groups, Louks said. The best site from the two groups will be chosen to go online.

There were requirements for the website, including number of pages, Louks said.

“It has to have at least six,” he said. “Most of them will have eight or 10.”

One of the teams working on the website consists of Kaylee Betzinger, Seth Stever and Stacie Studer.

Betzinger said the groups had a choice of two websites to work on.

“This appealed to us more,” she said. “It’s for a charity.”

Studer said their group used the website of Love, INC as the model for their creation.

“Laurel and Melissa said they really liked Love, INC’s website,” she said.

Friday, Betzinger said they had completed six pages for the website. At one point they had seven pages, but they eliminated one.

“It’s not adding anymore value to the website to have more pages,” she said.

Betzinger said the website the group created links to 31 Backpacks Facebook page, and it will have a link to PayPal for donations.

Melissa Maki said the three creators of 31 Backpacks wanted a website right from the beginning, but they weren’t able to set one up.

“We don’t have the know-it-all to do it,” she said.

One of the requirements for the website will be that they can do maintenance and updates themselves, Melissa said. They also would like people to be able to volunteer for 31 Backpacks on the site.

Louks said the other group working on the 31 backpacks website consists of Tony Campbell, Paula Castilho, Emily Christ and Quentin Franke. The two groups began working on their versions of a website at the start of the semester in September, and it should take the entire semester.

“We’ll finish it up before Christmas break,” he said.

The site is expected to go live by the end of December, Louks said.

In other 31 Backpacks news, Laurel Maki said Chassell Township Schools are the most recent addition for the organization. They are now serving 106 students in the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw, including the district’s Horizon Alternative High School; Chassell Township Schools; Lake Linden-Hubbell Public Schools; Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools; Hancock Gordon G. Barkell Elementary School and Hancock Middle School; and Houghton Elementary School. Talks are continuing with Adams Township School District and Stanton Township Public Schools.

Laurel Maki said currently 31 Backpacks is getting food from Tadych’s Econo Foods, Pat’s Foods, the Community Action Agency, Walmart and Gordon Food Service in Marquette.

Monetary donations are important for 31 Backpacks, and Laurel maki said a current fundraising effort is taking place at the AmericInn Lodge and Suites in Calumet.

Dianne Peterson, manager of the AmericInn, said the company has a program called AmericInn Cares, and in the Calumet location they are taking donations for 31 Backpacks and the United States Marine Corps’s Toys For Tots.

Donors can pay $2 and get their name displayed in the lobby, or they can make a larger donation and get a free service.

“If you bring in a $5 donation for 31 Backpacks or Toys For Tots, you can swim for free,” she said.

Peterson said she chose 31 Backpacks as one of the charities the business should support after hearing about what they do from some of her staff members.

“I was a little appalled we had that many kids going hungry,” she said.

Peterson said about 40 people have donated to 31 backpacks at the AmericInn since they started just before Halloween. “It’s going good,” she said.

To volunteer or donate to the program contact Melissa Maki,melissamaki19@gmail.com or 231-0694, or Laurel Maki,laurelmaki@charter.net or 231-1472. Make checks payable to 31 Backpacks, Inc.

This article was originally published by Kurt Hauglie fro the Daily Mining Gazette on November 9, 2013.