BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – We all like the sound of making a difference in the community, but how many of us actually take action? Fannin County High School student, Cassie Stepp, took the initiative to put her own community service project into place.
Stepp is a junior at Fannin County High School who is currently juggling not only her high school classes but dual enrollment at North Georgia Technical College along with her project. The Fannin County junior came up with the idea of supplying backpacks, full of everyday necessities that we take for granted, to the homeless. She came up with the idea all on her own and named her project “Blessing Backs With Packs”. When asked how she came up with the project and what made her decide to do it, Stepp responded, “I was at church one night when our youth leader, Justin Minter, asked us, ‘If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?’ My immediate thought was to help the homeless. Since I cannot build homes, I started to think on it and came up with this.”
Putting the project into place took a lot of time, patience, and planning. Once Stepp knew that she wanted to make her project happen, she went to one of her youth leaders, Matt Meeks, to lead her in the right direction. “Matt helped me schedule meetings to get my project approved and moving along,” Stepp shared with the FetchYourNews (FYN) team. “There have definitely been challenges that I’ve had to overcome when scheduling the important meetings because I’ve been so busy, but I have managed to work through it.”
Knowing that putting the bags together would take a lot of money, Stepp hit the drawing board. “Starting out, I set a goal for $500 in order to make 10 bags,” Stepp explained. Cassie raised money from a bake sale, yard sale, and a raffle. She stayed up for hours the night before her bake/yard sale making desserts, rounding up things she no longer used, making signs, and pricing items. For her raffle, Stepp went to local businesses asking for generous donations to put in the baskets she would be giving away. “Altogether I raised $600, exceeding my goal by $100,” Stepp said.
Then, Stepp wasted no time purchasing the bags and the items to go in it. In the bags, she included: a piece of paper explaining what the bag was, socks, a lot of canned food, an emergency blanket, a small flashlight, pens, hygiene products, a Bible, a journal, a water bottle, and information about local shelters. When asking Stepp how many people she will have helped at the end of her project, she responded, “There are currently 34 homeless in Fannin, and I plan to eventually help them all. I established the goal of 10 bags as a starting point for my project to grow off of. I spent $400 on the 10 bags and plan to put the leftover $200 towards the other 24 bags after more fundraising.”
After asking Stepp when she thinks the rest of her bags will be complete and her project will come to an end, she answered, “I don’t plan for my project to ever come to an end. After I’ve helped everyone in Fannin, I want to expand my project into other counties to help more people.” Cassie is continuing to think of more ways to raise money for her project as she also works to become a non-profit organization so that Blessing Backs with Packs can grow.
Stepp has made such a big impact on the community from being asked one simple question from her youth leader. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
“I would like to express my appreciation to all of the businesses who donated items for the raffle and helped me reach my goal. I could not have done this without them,” Stepp shared with the FYN team. The organizations include: Serenity Spa and Resort, Mason Tractor Company, Dairy Queen, April’s Attic, Blue Ridge Outdoor Adventure Wear, River Gypsy, Humble Pie, Blue Ridge Bird Seed Company, Chocolate Express, Blue Ridge Mountain Mall, Blue Ridge Fly Fishing, Fannin Lanes, Cohutta Mini Golf, Cohutta Feed and Seed, Taste of Amish, Blue Ridge Oil Change, X-Treme Print Graphics, Fannin County High School, Donna Gray, and Cheryl Stepp.