Smithland Backpack Program collects items for summer yard sale to help food insecure families


HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – Local students and spring cleaners, keep reading.

Before you toss unnecessary items in the trash while you’re moving out for the summer or cleaning your house, an organization in Harrisonburg is asking you to give those items a second life for a good cause.

The Smithland Elementary School Backpack Program helps feed food-insecure families at school. The bags contain food for meal prepping and on-the-go items, such as peanut butter, jelly and crackers.

Emma Phillips, the school’s backpack program coordinator who is also running for a seat on the Harrisonburg school board, said they buy the food from local partners, like the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Hope Distributed. , assembled bags of food, then left student bags in their lockers to take home.

“We pay for all the food we put in our backpacks and that money comes entirely from donations,” Phillips said.

She said they are also organizing various fundraisers, such as a garage sale to be held in July. One of the biggest article contributors is James Madison University students leaving town for the summer, Phillips said.

“Students have things that they no longer need or that don’t fit in their car and end up getting thrown away,” Phillips said. “We want to make sure these items don’t end up in our landfills and we want to give these items a chance for a second life in someone else’s home.”

Phillips said her husband, Clay Phillips, is available to pick up the items. He can be reached at (540) 908-8807.

“We can take furniture, household items, clothes. Even items that people wouldn’t normally consider useful are things we can use,” Phillips said. “For example, we have people who donate dishwasher detergent and people who donate toiletries. Even though it’s something we can’t sell at our garage sale, we’re happy to go through these donations for students or anyone and direct them to the appropriate places. We have ties to various shelters and charities in the city.

Phillips said it costs about $50 to sponsor a child for six months and $100 to sponsor a child for a full year. The last garage sale raised over $1,000, which allowed us to sponsor approximately 10 children throughout the year.

The garage sale will take place in July, depending on the weather. Until then, Phillips said she would store all items at her home.

Several Harrisonburg schools have backpacking programs. If you are interested in donating, click here.

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