Our Story and Team

Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley, WA, is a non-profit organization that provides nutritional security to students K–12, who lack sufficient nutrition at home or are unsure where their next meal will come from.

In 2015 a couple of our girls who are in Girl Scouts began participating in a service project with the Covington Backpack Buddies. Knowing there would be a need in Maple Valley we immediately began asking for approval and financial support to bring it to our own community.

In the Fall of 2016 Rock Creek Elementary piloted our program for us. After a few months we had all elementary schools participating and shortly after that the middle schools were added. In 2018 we met one of our initial goals to serve all schools in Tahoma School District. We went from 6 bags that very first week to 160 in the fall of 2018.

We have become our own non-profit charity so that we can better serve the kids in need. We really believe in Backpack Buddies and how greatly it benefits the students we serve. Facing hunger or nutritional insecurity is terrifying and so uncertain for children. It affects them physically, mentally, socially and academically. By simply sending home a bag of food for the weekend, we help provide some nutrition and security, which supports their social and academic performance.

Meet the team!

Mindy Gamble



I am a wife and a mom of two Tahoma students. I enjoy being with my family and friends. I love to be outdoors (hiking, walking, biking, etc). My happy place is Lake Chelan. Growing up I came from a single-family home where we made the best of our food stamps, we waited in line at Kent Commons to get our powdered milk and cheese. I know what it’s like when your parent struggles to make the best of what they have.

I am fortunate enough that my husband has a very good and stable job so we do not have to worry about food insecurities. When my daughter did her first service activity through girl scouts at the Covington Storehouse I was overwhelmed with emotion knowing that we were packing for 202 kids that night. I knew immediately that God was calling me to bring Backpack Buddies to my community. Now seeing the benefits of this program for the kids I couldn’t imagine not being involved.

I am proud of what Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley has become and pleased to serve the kids in my community.

Debi Braulik

Vice President


Jill Saldivar



Jill moved to Maple Valley in 2003. She has a daughter, a recent graduate of Tahoma HS, class of 21, and a son in 7th grade at Summit Trail Middle. Jill has worked in the learning and development field for over 20 years and has had the chance to work as a substitute teacher in the Tahoma District, seeing firsthand who this program assists. She believes when children and people, in general, have access to food and aren’t hungry, they can be more alert and focused on the lesson at hand and feel confident to participate in their learning activities. The Backpack Buddies program helped her Girl Scout troop over the years learn the value of volunteering and giving back to their community, lessons that she believes are important for the future. Jill chose to become part of Backpack Buddies because growing up, her low-income family of 5 would have benefited greatly from a program like this one. She likes the opportunity to give back and be part of a local program that helps the community’s future generations thrive. Jill enjoys time with her family doing many things, from cheering on various youth sports, hiking, camping traveling anywhere they can.

Mike Gamble


Heather Weston



There are four generations in Heather’s family that have grown up in the Maple Valley area. Several generations could have benefited, off and on over the years, from the support of a program like Backpack Buddies had it existed.

As a Mom of two children in the Tahoma District, she would hear stories from her son and daughter about friends at school without sufficient food.  While trying to figure out a way to help these food-insecure friends, she discovered Backpack Buddies and got involved as a regular volunteer.  She is grateful to be part of the Backpack Buddies program and support the children in the community with food over the weekend.  Knowing that this program is helping those, like her family of past generations and her children’s friends today, be able to focus on growing, learning, and simply being a kid means everything.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished do when we work together!

On weekends, you can find Heather taking a break from her full-time career with her husband, kids, and dog, taking advantage of all that the Pacific Northwest outdoors has to offer.

Allie Hayes

Member at large


Hi! I am a teacher in the Tahoma School District that lives here in Maple Valley. Growing up in this community and going through Tahoma was a huge blessing so it is very close to my heart. I love my job and spending time with my family/friends. I enjoy event planning and baking when I get the chance.

I believe that no child should have to worry about when their next meal will be or where it is coming from, so when I heard Mindy talking about Backpack Buddies I knew that I wanted to help. Watching the program grow from an idea to being across the whole district has been amazing!

Jennifer Allen

Member at large


Working with kids every day, I see how much food and nutrition affects their school day. I feel so lucky to be able to work with Backpack Buddies, providing meals to kids who need them. This has been such a great organization to work with—the impact they make is so very important to our kids and community.

“You’ve built a fantastic program and handled the growth extremely well! Thank you for all your hard work!”

-Backpack Buddies Volunteer

Special thanks to our current sponsors!

We want to thank our generous sponsors for supporting our mission!

These sponsors have either given in kind donations to support us or financially. Our current sponsors have allowed Backpack Buddies to become what we are today. They continue to provide support, from the buildings we pack in to the fruit that goes in bags and the venues where we hold our fundraisers. Each of these sponsors have been very generous to us over the last year or more. Businesses that support us at a Gold or Platinum Sponsorship will be shown here. We thank each of them for their part in helping Backpack Buddies become a long term, sustainable program benefiting Tahoma School District students!

Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley
Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley
Hello Community! Backpack Buddies has an immediate need for 6 packing volunteers for Wednesday/tomorrow/April 28th beginning at 6pm.

If interested in packing, please sign up here:

Thank you!
Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley
Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley
Backpack Buddies has a couple of immediate needs.

1. Packing volunteers needed for Wednesday evening packing.

If interested in packing, please sign up here:

2. We need two, weekly delivery drivers for Tahoma Elementary and Summit Trail Middle school (Wednesday evening bag pick up, Thursday morning back drop off at the school).

If interested in the delivery opportunity, please reach out to Heather at backpackbuddiesmv@gmail.com. We need someone to start ASAP.

Thank you for considering
Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley
Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley
Weekly Volunteers NEEDED:

We are in need of three more weekly volunteers.

Current needs:
• Delivery drivers
- 1 for Shadow Lake Elementary School
- 1 for Cedar River Elementary School
- 1 for Lake Wilderness Preschool

Delivery Driver
--Pick up bags for children from our packing house in Maple Valley on Thursday evenings between 6:20 – 6:40 pm.
--Deliver bags to Shadow Lake Elementary on Friday morning by 9:00 am or Cedar River by 7:30 am.
--Lake Wilderness is a bit different. You would pick up Thursday morning and would deliver Thursdays between 9-11am to the office.

If you are interested in volunteering, please email Heather at backpackbuddiesmv@gmail.com.
Thank you!
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Special thanks to our current sponsors!