Radford University students and staff are finishing a huge food collection project to help the Bobcat Backpack program today.
The goal for “Radford Gives Back” is 15,000 food items to help feed 175+ Radford City students every weekend.
If you’d like to help unload, come to the Presbyterian Church of Radford (201 4th St.) at 6:30 p.m. this evening. Many hands make light work!
Once again, the City of Radford owes Radford University a big “thank you” for its help. RU students and staff help with Renew the New, the Mary Draper Ingles drama, various city committees, school system volunteers, the Bobcat Backpack program and so many other activities.
The university and city are tied together in many different ways, and both benefit from being such a strong team.
The Bobcat Backpack program, of all the different joint activities, is one of the most significant, because it has such a considerable impact on the city’s most prized possession: its children.
If not for all of the generosity of the people and businesses of Radford, children would go hungry on weekends.
Many children qualify for free or reduced lunch in school because their parents’ income is so low. This program helps to make sure that they have at least two decent meals each school day.
At the last school board meeting, it was reported that 44 percent of students in Radford qualified for free or reduced lunch, with 55 percent at McHarg Elementary alone (Belle Heth Elementary has 48 percent).
These numbers will probably increase in the coming months as more families sign-up for the program.
Why are there so many people living in poverty? The reasons vary just as the different families do.
It’s difficult to get a job that pays a decent salary without the training or education needed for it.
It’s hard to get that education in a single-parent family where that parent has to work a job that doesn’t pay a living wage.
They can’t take time off for classes because that low-wage job is their only income and because child support isn’t coming in regularly, if at all.
Then there is the cost of daycare before or after school or for young children not in school. There could also be transportation issues.
These are not people who are all just lazy. They are caught in a circle of poverty, and although they would like to better their situations, it’s sometimes difficult to do.
In Virginia, minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Take out taxes, and what is a parent with two children left with when the paycheck comes?
Gas prices, electricity, healthcare, heating costs, food—everything goes up regularly, but wages haven’t matched that rise. The $7.25 per hour doesn’t go very far.
Teachers and school administrators understand the problem of poverty. Every child can learn, but poverty in the home can make it more difficult. Schools are doing everything they can with the limited funding they get from the state.
Can you imagine how a teacher feels on Friday afternoon? She looks at those smiling, happy faces that come in all shades and backgrounds and realizes over half of them may not get a good breakfast or lunch for at least two days, more if there is a holiday on Monday, no school because of professional development or a Monday snow day. It breaks their hearts to know that children may suffer.
That’s where the Bobcat Backpack program comes in. A can of ravioli, a jar of peanut butter, some chunky soup, a few oatmeal packets and more—it all adds up to having some meals over the weekend so those children don’t have to look up to a desperate parent and say they’re hungry.
Students come to Radford University from all over the country. In the communities where they grew up, they may have helped by bringing in food to their elementary schools just like the students at Belle Heth did over the last week.
They may even have been in families helped with a food basket themselves at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Those lessons weren’t lost on them.
Now those Radford University students are joining the parents, children, businesses and community volunteers in Radford to practice the values of kindness and charity, they learned early in life in their newly adopted home.
It is fitting that this large Radford service project is happening today, since this is the same day that, in 1979, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the less fortunate in India.
She once said, “At the end of life, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by, ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.'”
Whether you are religious or not, it is easy to realize how meaningful those words by the diminutive founder of the Missionaries of Charity are.
So thank you, Radford University students, for making it possible for so many children to have food when they are hungry on the weekend.
You are helping to change lives.
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.