Leadership Greensboro - Giving Back

Parker Wood White pictured with some of the program's backpacks.Last year during my annual employee review, I sat down with Gib and John and talked about my position with HMC and my role in the organization. In the 8 years we have been working together, my duties have changed as our needs have changed. We recognized that now I am focusing my skills on managing our corporate operations – from marketing, to HR, to Technology. Gib and John both suggested I apply for the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Greensboro program. They are both graduates of the program and felt I would benefit from it as well. So, I applied to the program and was accepted. I have spent one day a month since August learning about my leadership style, meeting other wonderful professionals from all different backgrounds, and learning about this great city which I've called home for the past eight years. I have enjoyed the program so much, but it is my volunteer project that I think has made the greatest impact on me. I was paired with a great team and we were assigned to work with a nonprofit called BackPack Beginnings. I will admit… before this program I lived my life in a bit of a bubble. I saw what was around me, but did not see past to some of the amazing people and programs that are out there. One of these amazing people is Parker White, the founder of BackPack Beginnings.

If you haven’t heard of this nonprofit, let me give you a little background. Six years ago Greensboro native, Parker White and her family moved back to Greensboro from Washington, D.C. It was at this time that she learned of a shocking statistic: 42,000 children, 57 percent of children in Guilford County Schools, qualified for free or reduced lunches. Plus, Guilford County ranked 4th in the country for food insecurity. Food Insecurity is defined by Feeding America as “the condition of not having regular access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life.” Federally funded programs are available to help feed these children during the school hours and summer, but what are they to do on the weekend?

In January 2010, White launched BackPack Beginnings, a 100 percent volunteer nonprofit organization to help feed the hungry children of Guilford County. BackPack Beginnings works in partnership with Guilford County Title 1 schools and Head Start agencies to identify children currently on free or reduced price meals who are in need food over the weekends. They also partner with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC to purchase food for the weekly food program, which is distributed in 4 set rotating menu options.

The Food BackPack Program provides hungry children in our county with backpacks full of nutritious, kid-friendly food for the weekends during the school year. The Food BackPack Program has grown from feeding 50 hungry children in one school in 2010 to feeding over 1,100 children in over 21 schools in Spring of 2014!

Today, BackPack Beginnings has an unpaid staff of five dedicated individuals running the programs, aided by countless other volunteers. The program has grown from its start with the Food BackPack Program to now offering a free Clothing Pantry, Comfort BackPack Program, which provides backpacks full of comfort items to abused/neglected, homes, refugee and foster children, and 4 Food Pantries at Welborn Middle School, Ferndale Middle School, Jones Elementary School and Guilford Middle School to supplement additional food needs.

My team was given the task of raising awareness of the BackPack Beginnings Program with High Point residents. We were shocked to learn that 40% of the children that BackPack Beginnings supports are from High Point schools, but only 5 – 7% of the funding comes from High Point residents. It was our mission to try to spread the word about the good things BackPack Beginnings is doing for the children of High Point to the High Point community!

Our project team was able to reach out to businesses, restaurants, churches, and individuals in the community. We secured a $4,500 donation and 40 volunteer hours through BB&T’s Project Lighthouse program, we raised over $600 from my running group, The Breathless Babes, and we put Parker in contact with several groups including the High Point Rotary Club, The Junior League, and Jamestown United Methodist Outreach Thrift Center in hopes that BackPack Beginnigns will qualify for future programs offered by these organizations.

On June 13th the “Little Blank Canvas” art studio will hold an exhibition with a portion of the proceeds going to BackPack Beginnings. On August 2nd Off ‘n Running Sports will host a BackPack Relay Fun Run in which teams will run a relay race from the Off ‘n Running Greensboro store to the Off ‘n Running High Point store passing a backpack at each relay location to help raise awareness and funds for BackPack Beginnings. This fall, BackPack Beginnings will be a part of High Point University’s Greek Life Philanthropic week during their RUSH. In addition, the project team is in discussion to hold a movie viewing in September about hunger, which corresponds with National Hunger Awareness Month. Plus, we are about to launch a social media campaign in which we will share a video we created about BackPack Beginnings and raise money for each share that we get on Facebook.

Overall I think we’ve done a lot to spread the word and raise awareness for BackPack Beginnings, but more importantly, this program has raised my awareness. Not only am I aware of this incredible organization, but of many others that are out there. I am happy to say that I’m beginning to step outside my comfort bubble and learn about the good things I can do outside of my company and the running community where I am so comfortable.

I know many of you are very involved with very meaningful organizations and charities. For those who are not, I encourage you to seek out groups that are of interest to you. It can be such a rewarding experience for you personally and the organization will be extremely grateful for your help and effort.

I hope you’ll take a minute to watch the video we created about BackPack Beginnings and their impact on High Point.  (note we are still looking for a sponsor to make a $1 donation for every share that we get when we release the video on Facebook).




If you would like to learn more about how you can help BackPack Beginnings, please feel free to visit their website at www.backpackbeginnings.org.

I would like to thank Gib and John for suggesting the Leadership Greensboro program for me and for being so understanding about the time commitment this program has taken.  I do feel I have learned a great deal about not only myself, but also this wonderful community.