Olivia Gillespie has helped provide thousands of Clinton City Schools’ students with healthy weekend meals through a local food distribution program.
For the last six years, Gillespie has asked her family and friends to give her food donations for her birthday, rather than the lavish, expensive gifts that have been wrapped and topped with a bow. The upcoming sophomore has then donated all the items to Backpack Buddies, a program in Clinton City Schools that provides children in need of food over the weekend with a bag that contains six adequate meals and two snacks to last them until they return to school on Monday.
“I want to help others who have less than I do,” Gillespie shared. “This program is a great program because it helps children in my school system who don’t have enough food at home. I have so many things to be thankful for and I want to give back to the community.”
According to Jean Kunzman, Backpack Buddies provides children from food-insecure homes with healthy weekend meals during the school year. The children, selected by school principals, guidance counselors, and supervisors of various after school programs, receive a backpack containing six balanced meals and two healthy snacks at the end of every week. Local corporations, civic groups, and individuals help collect and pack bags with kid-friendly non-perishable food or become official sponsors.
Gillespie, who is a student at Clinton High School, began collecting the food when she turned 10. For the last six years, every June, when her birthday rolls around the young student asks that her friends and family bring food. At the beginning of August, those items are then delivered to Sunset Avenue School. She will make her annual donation next week.
“I feel excited and glad that I can help those who are in need of food,” Gillespie said. “I do not want others to be hungry and I hope that my donation will help jump start the school year.”
Each year, Gillespie usually donates approximately 14 bags of food. Last year, she believed she collected more than ever before, and yet even more than ever this year.
The Backpack Buddies program has helped more than 2,000 students over the past year, sending home nearly 75,000 backpacks from 67 sites, across seven counties in North Carolina. Locally, 250 bags of food are handed out to students each week.
For many of the children who receive the bags of food, this is the only means of a meal they will have over a weekend, when they aren’t at school.
Despite being active at her church and in athletics at school, Gillespie finds time to perform community service throughout Sampson County. With the help of her family, parents Perry and Anna Gillespie and grandparents, Gloria Gillespie and Jamie and Kathy Little, the teen plans to continue collecting food donations for birthday presents.