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Pack the Backpack event aims to stock school pantries

Nov. 14, 2012 @ 07:11 AM

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University senior Bradlee Jordan shakes his head when thinking that one in four children don’t know where their next meal will come from. And that is right here in Cabell County.

Jordan, a Huntington High School graduate, said that meant there were students in his classes who went home and didn’t have anything to eat. That’s why he and fellow senior Shey Dillon organized Pack the Backpack, an event to help stock up school pantries in Cabell County.

“I knew there were kids that did not have a lot, but I never knew it was this bad,” Jordan said. “You’d never know that many kids need (help).”

They and other students staffed a table in the Memorial Student Center on Tuesday to collect non-perishable foods, toiletries and bedding items. They said they were thrilled with the university and community response.

“It makes you feel guilty to say you are out of nail polish or your sweater has a stain,” Dillon said. “But it’s a good feeling to collect these things and help out.”

Pack the Backpack replaced Baskets for Branches this year, said Jaye Ike, special projects coordinator for the College of Fine Arts. She said the students who started the fundraiser for Branches Domestic Violence Shelter graduated and a new crew of students wanted to find another cause. Ike said students have told her they want to have several philanthropic opportunities to rotate through each year.

The donations will help several schools, including Guyandotte Elementary and Huntington High. Theresa Rapp, the career specialist at the high school, said the need is very real and any donation is helpful.

“We’re getting phone calls from parents in need of food, clothing and personal care items,” Rapp said.

She said students may not be aware that their classmates are enduring such struggles because it can seem foreign to them. And if they do learn of a need, they sometimes aren’t sure how to help.

“I think the reality of it all is hard to grasp,” she said. “Teenagers generally are not in tune with what the student sitting next to them needs.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit, Rapp said, is that the students who receive the help can turn their focus to academics.

“If we don’t meet their basic human needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, how can we teach them? How can they be ready to learn? It’s a huge distraction that causes difficulty in the learning process,” Rapp said.

Those who were unable to make a donation Tuesday can contact Ike at 304-696-3296 or drop items off at her office in Smith Hall 160. Items on the needs list include non-perishable food appropriate for children, toiletries, deodorant, soap, shampoo, pillows and bedding, backpacks or tote bags, and coats and gloves.