Volunteer Spotlight: Back Pack Buddy Drivers
Approximately four years ago, AFAC launched our backpack buddy program to serve low-income children at designated Arlington County Public Schools. The goal was to provide children who relied on free or reduced breakfast and lunch in schools with comparable food on the weekends. For many families, having extra food provides a much-needed relief for their limited budgets.
The backpacks contain approximately 14 individual items that are easy enough for a child to prepare on his or her own, including fresh fruit and milk. AFAC currently serves close to 300 children in 18 schools. When the program was launched, AFAC readily agreed to provide the food but the more complicated issue became the delivery mechanism.
Enter the Backpack Buddy Brigade!
Every Thursday and Friday, a team of approximately 12 volunteers comes to AFAC ready to fill their cars with bags of food. Some drivers have multiple routes and it is typical to spend a couple of hours each week completing their rounds. The backpacks are delivered to social workers at the school, not to the students themselves.
Our volunteers enjoy the activity because it provides consistence but is flexible enough that they can swap with another volunteer if there is a conflict. It’s a great job for people who love to drive and can work on a team or by themselves. Volunteers often joke that it also provides for a great work-out!
One volunteer, Claudia Randolph says, “I’ve been driving for a year and a half now. I usually spend about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on how busy the loading dock is) every other week. I have a great partner Jana Englander who rotates delivery with me. We cover for each other when one of us goes on vacation or has some other commitment. We deliver during the school year to Barcroft Elementary. Communities in Schools helps cover additional costs for needy kids at Barcroft so there are a largest number of participants, about 90 bags. I like to do this because I have been so blessed— always able to feed my kids and my family. But we know many kids who aren’t so blessed. This is just one of my ways of giving back.”
For AFAC, it’s a wonderful match to know that there is a way for people to help without having to commit to a specific time at our warehouse. Our backpack buddy drivers are exemplary ambassadors for AFAC and the schools are also grateful for their help.