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W&L’s Campus Kitchen Backpack Program Receives NTelos Grant

The Weekend Backpack Snack Program at the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL), in which volunteers fill backpacks with food and deliver them to elementary schools in the area, received a much needed boost in the form of a $1,500 grant from the nTelos Foundation on Friday, Nov. 4.

Jenny Davidson, coordinator of student service learning at W&L and director of CKWL and the backpack program, pointed out that the $1,500 donation will provide about 1,500 backpacks for area school children. “We get donations of dry goods from Wal-Mart, but we also have to supplement by purchasing items from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Because we buy in bulk and get items at a discounted rate, it comes to about one dollar to fill each backpack,” she estimated.

Mike Minnis, director of public relations at nTelos, said that members of nTelos’ senior leadership team learned about the backpack program when they visited Lexington to perform a day of service at CKWL. “Conrad Hunter, who is president of our wireless organization, stayed in touch with Jenny Davidson after that,” he said. “Our nTelos Foundation wanted to get involved because we saw an opportunity to support something that seems to be very helpful and growing in the area.”

The backpack program has certainly expanded since it started in 2009 at Natural Bridge Elementary School. In 2010 it grew to include Fairfield Elementary School, and this past September began delivering backpacks for students at Waddell Elementary School and Central Elementary School. Davidson said that plans were underway to include Mountain View Elementary School in January 2012.

Monique Toman, school counselor at Central Elementary School, was at the check presentation at the Lexington nTelos wireless store, and described the backpack program as a tremendous value to students and their families. “It’s definitely helping a lot of families and they have been coming and thanking us and Campus Kitchens. We have about 100 students who receive backpacks every Thursday,” she said. “It’s been a tremendous help and adds something extra to their weekend.”

Davidson noted that the backpack is different to other operations at CKWL. “Most of our Campus Kitchens operations include interacting with clients, but with the backpacks we just send them off in the hope that they are doing some good. So it’s really nice to have feedback and know that the students are enjoying the program,” she said.

Kathryn Marsh-Soloway, a junior at Washington and Lee, has been involved with CKWL since her first year at W&L and has participated in the backpack program since her sophomore year. “I’m the person who delivers the backpacks every Thursday to Natural Bridge and Waddell,” she said. “I take the backpacks to the schools and then the guidance counselors help us deliver them to the students’ lockers.”

The backpack program targets students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Although those students are guaranteed lunch Monday through Friday at school, by sending food home with them in backpacks on Friday nights, the aim is to ensure that they have food over the weekend as well.

Students who receive the backpacks, as a percentage of the student body, are: 64.99 percent at Fairfield Elementary; 53.12 percent at Mountain View Elementary; 61.94 percent at Natural Bridge Elementary; 43.57 percent at Central Elementary and 20.25 percent at Waddell Elementary.

The nTelos Foundation, based at corporate headquarters in Waynesboro, Va., traditionally supports projects that are education-, health- or service-oriented in local communities, and also supports local arts projects.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director