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Lighting up children’s lives one bag at a time

Lemont, IL Backpack Event

Lemont, IL Backpack Event

Many children throughout the nation take such things as a backpack for granted, but for some children it is finally something they can call their own.  In light of the new school season starting, eight facilities teamed up with United Stationers to deliver school bags to elementary schools where the poverty level is low, very low in fact that at least 60 percent of the all schools have children on free or reduced lunch.

From the West to East coasts, Christmas was coming early for some very happy students as United Stationers would donate the supplies to go in the backpacks and GSF would donate the school bag. Over 1,500 bags made it safely to a very joyful child.  Starting with the West, Irvine donated 100 bags to Lowell Elementary school in the heart of Santa Ana.  Of the 900 students at Lowell Elementary, teachers selected two students from their class who they felt would most benefit from the gift. These students were gathered in a small assembly room where the principal, Mrs. Martinez, hosted the backpack give-away.  With shy smiling faces, each student expressed their thanks as they came up to shake each hand and chose their backpack.

“You don’t really know and appreciate what the Foundation does until you are part of the giving and volunteering process,” says Jeannette Teves, Irvine Foundation chapter volunteer. Sneha Patel also added, “I was also very touched by the experience, especially when a young man asked if he could keep the backpack he had chosen. He seemed so in awe that he would receive such a wonderful gift. It’s something so simple to us, but so special to them.”

Las Vegas volunteers were able to deliver to two different schools.  Tom Wenzel, Vegas Foundation chair, described the day as “very fruitful for the heart.”  QCDS Facility Manager, Jeff Gerdes, added, “We look forward to contributing to the community in many ways, and the backpack program was a prime example of that. With the backpacks we helped out not only the children, but the parents who cannot afford these school items and can now use their savings for something else important.”

One hundred backpacks were delivered to East Grenada Elementary in the heart of Phoenix. This school was located in the neighborhood of GSF’s Phoenix distribution center.  McDonald’s lunch was also served and very happy children loved eating their Happy Meals.  Teaming up with Oak- brook, Lemont delivered 300 school bags to Joliet and Bolingbrook School districts in Illinois.  “We strongly believe that students well prepared for school have more confidence and higher self-esteem, leading to greater success in the classroom,” says Jennifer Bailey, Lemont Foundation communication chair.  “At a time when many are facing strong economic head- winds, the gift of a backpack helps a child know that someone in their com- munity cares.  It also gives each of us a chance to make a difference person- ally in the life of a child.”

Lemont associates teamed up with volunteers United Stationers, GSF Foundation-Oak Brook, and McDonald’s Restaurant Owner/Operators who work near the schools and from the McDonald’s Regional Office to deliver backpacks to kids at schools in their local areas. “Mr. Warpinski from Bernard J. Ward Elementary school told us that our phone call to his school made his day,” says Nancy Shepherd, Lemont Foundation secretary. “He and Ms. Tulla, the social worker, just learned that they would not receive any donations this year and we came through with 100 backpacks.  He could not believe it and could not thank us enough.”

Whitewater had eight volunteers to deliver 50 backpacks to four different schools. According to Jeaneen Brokmeier, Whitewater chapter chair, the bags were greatly appreciated and they will definitely be put to good use. We were very happy with the quality of the bags and the supplies that were in them.

As for Conyers, the recipients of most of the school bags are children that come from the women battered shelter.  Lives that have been torn apart by abuse and neglect are given hope as they receive a gift as simple as a backpack.  “It was such a pleasure to partner with United Stationers on the backpack program, says Kim Donahue, Conyers Foundation co-chair. “Both companies enjoyed watching the children’s eyes light up when they received a new backpack!  Pine Street Elementary brought out 300 children to the cafeteria and we all personally got to hand each one of them a new backpack.  It is so rewarding to be able to do good things for others in our community.”

The Lexington, SC Foundation chapter recently had backpack presentations at two area elementary schools.  Lewis Greenview and Pine Grove Elementary Schools received close to 200 bags.  In addition to the back packs filled with school supplies, each kindergarten student received a card for a free item from McDonald’s, plus a bag of McDonaldland cookies, courtesy of Benny Clark, who owns two McDonald’s near the school. “The Associates in Lexington like nothing more than to see the faces on the children as they receive their back packs,” says Foundation Chair, Darwin McDonald. “It personifies our mission in helping kids in our community.”