Springfield teacher starts non-profit to feed kids on the weekend

A Springfield teacher who has been helping to feed the children in Clark County, one backpack at a time, says, “children learn better when they have full stomachs.”

Jill Wuebker is as an Intervention Specialist for special needs children at the Clark Early Learning Center in the Springfield City School District. She also shows her concern for children through Baclpack Buddies, the non-profit program she started to serve preschoolers at the center.

“The school that I teach in has a food need, so kids that don’t have food for the weekend, this program provides for them,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a food assistance program.”

Wuebker started the Backpack Buddies program, which provides a pack of nutritious food to children for the weekend, at the learning center five years ago after she saw an incident that she says changed her perspective.

“I saw my very first year when I was there, one of my students was eating out of the garbage can after lunch had been served. I realized there was a need that was not being met in the district for certain students and I needed to do something to help stop that hunger,” she said. “It changes your perspective when you see a five-year-old digging in the garbage can.”

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When the program was first started at the center, about 90 packs were given out a week. Now, there’s a handful of people including Wuebker, other teachers and community volunteers that help serve roughly 175 packs each week.

“There’s a lot of little kids without food,” Wuebker said. “I have volunteers from the community that will help come and pack as well as some teachers from the building, and my mom’s church has been the most of my money and food donations. Other businesses and churches within the district have contributed money wise also.”

One of Wuebker’s goals is to feed the children to make sure that they are able to learn.

“I hope that what I’m doing prepares them for learning because sometimes children can’t help the situations that they’re in, but we can help the children and families in those situations,” she said. “If this just helps a little bit, that’s my goal, just being able to help enough so the children are best prepared to learn.”

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When Wuebker found out she was nominated as an unsung hero, she was shocked.

“I’m actually shocked because that’s not the way that I see myself at all,” she said. “I just decided it needed to be done.”

The woman who nominated her says different.

“She’s very compassionate, very caring,” Rosalie Lawson said. “Jill didn’t want recognition, but in my eyes, she’s an unsung hero.”

If you would like to donate to the program, contact Jill at wuebkerjm@scsdoh.org. Food and money can be sent to the Clark Early Learning Center, 1500 W. Jefferson St., and checks should be made out to the Backpack Buddies program.


3-5: Age range of the children Weubker teaches

175: Number of packs given out each week

5: Number of years Weubker has taught at the Clark Early Learning Center and ran the Backpack Buddies program

Throughout the Christmas season, the Springfield News-Sun brings attention to Unsung Heroes — those who consistently go above and beyond in their work or aspects of their lives to care for others.

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