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Backpacks for kids, supporting needy children

By By Lisa Tindell
During this time of year, food drives are about as plentiful as colored lights. However, the nursing department at Jefferson Davis Community College has begun a service project that gives the phrase "food drive" a new twist.
Chris Wilcox, a nursing student at JDCC, took the proverbial bull by the horns and has begun efforts that have quickly snowballed in the project known as "Backpacks for Kids."
Ann Mantel, director of the nursing department and faculty member, had heard of the program in Baldwin County and passed the information along to other faculty members and nursing students.
"When we got the information, I thought it was a great idea," Wilcox said. "We thought about involving the nursing student body and got the teachers to pass along the information during their classes."
Ann Lambert's maternal child class spearheaded the project and put their minds to work on how the program could be implemented. From that point, the ball began to roll and has steadily picked up steam.
The project is designed to supply needy children in the college's service area with snacks and easy-to-prepare lunches over the weekend. The nursing department is working with school systems in the local area to identify children who show the most need. Many of those served by the program have been identified as already receiving reduced cost or free meals at their school.
"After needy children are identified, we will prepare the backpacks with food items for them to take home on Fridays," Lambert said. "The students will then return the empty backpacks the following Monday to be picked up and refilled."
As news of the program spread across the JDCC campus, other faculty members and students expressed an interest in becoming involved in the program.
Delinda Hurry, financial aid officer, immediately felt a need to become involved in the action in some way.
"We wanted to find a way to raise as much money as possible to help make the project a success from the start," Hurry said. "The quickest way we could do that was to have a car wash. It was a one-day event and we thought we might do well."
Under her direction, student athletes came together and helped to organize a car wash to raise money for the project. The "Carwash for a Cause" was held on Nov. 3. Fliers were posted around campus asking for volunteers in hopes of involving the entire campus. Chris Hoomes, manager of the Brewton Speedy Lube, allowed the college to hold the car wash outside the business and use its water.
"With all of those athletes showing up and working hard at the car wash, we were very happy to raise as much as we did," Hurry said. "We were able to raise a little over $400 which was enough money for us to go out and purchase food items for the back packs. We were able to get enough supplies to fill 47 back packs and have some items left over to help stock a pantry for future fills."
Items included in the backpacks range from microwaveable popcorn and other healthy snacks, to single serve lunch portions. These items were found to be consistent with the possibility that the child may be preparing their own meals and snacks over any given weekend period.
In support of this effort, Tom Anderson, Southeast Regional Account Executive of American Education Services (AES) in Jacksonville, Fla., graciously supplied the college with lightweight nylon backpacks to be used by the project, Hurry said.
Softball players participating were Amberly Whitworth, Kayla Galloway, Tanna Fontes, Kerri Ivy, Kim Carter, Emily Davenport, Angela Thomas, Jerri Edwards, Chasity Nicholson, Tiffany Cayson, Jayla Davis, Catherine Layton, Deanna Covin, Jodi Lisenby, Crystal Freeman, Erika Davis, Brittany Bradshaw, and Terri-Lynne Peacock. The volleyball team members participating were Tiffany Lively, Jessica Brown, Jessica Stafford, Robyn Duncan, Ashley Willoughby, Kandace Stewart, Jaclyn Seay, Emily Doty, Kathy Phillips, Amanda Pullen, Megan Petrie and Lindi Thompson. From the JDCC basketball team, participants were Quintereal Kelley, Donald Smith, Tyler Hammond, Jake Nelson, Micah McKinney, Lyndon Butler, Tim Rodgers, Thomas Tunberg, Justin J. Owens, Maurice Edmonson, and Brandon Stewart. Baseball car washers were Justin Bailey, Steven Bingert, Jacob Bonds, Hunter Brown, Wesley Burt, Robby Carlson, George Cook, Jessie Edwards, Wesley Gambrill, Greg Gomez, Daniel Hodge, Nathan Hughes, Ryan Kelley, Michael Maraldo, Kenny McDonald, Joshua Presley, Whitney Qualls, Adam Reed, Andrew Sawyer, Kyle Snedeker, Matthew Stokes, Harrison Szuch, Ross Taylor, David Washington, Jeremy White, and Landon Wilson.
Non-athlete student volunteers were Natalie Hundredth, Tamara Lovelace, and Joe Bailey. Faculty and staff who participated in the car wash were Dr. Corine January, Delinda Hurry, Kim Fleming and Vanessa Kyles.
In addition to the car wash drive, collection boxes have been placed around campus and have been successful in the collection of many items for the project.
"Right now our pantry is pretty well stocked," Wilcox said. "However, with the continuation of the project throughout the school year, the stock will need to be replenished regularly. Because of that, we will continue to ask for donations and collect food items for the project."
Wilcox said that the group would like to encourage citizens in the service area to continue to support the project.
"We are soliciting donations of prepackaged food items as well as new or clean, used backpacks," Wilcox said. "There are collection boxes in the local grocery stores as well as the nursing department on the Brewton and Atmore campuses."
Anyone interested in making a donation may do so at the nursing department office in the Neal Center on the JDCC campus, or you may call 867-4832 and ask for the nursing department for further details.