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In 2016, the tenth anniversary of the BackPack Program™ prompted us to identify and recognize 10 key individuals who helped build the program and make it what it is today. These Champions, along with countless volunteers, school officials, coordinators, and donors, work tirelessly each day to tackle the issue of childhood hunger in the Southern Tier.
The following is the complete compilation of all 10 of our BackPack Champions, and how each of their distinct and influential roles helped shape the program into what it is today!
Chris Allinger, Q Country 103.7 Radio Host
Using his voice and his feet, Chris is perhaps the most physically active of our BackPack Champions! In 2011, Chris, a local radio personality, combined a personal health goal with his passion for helping others by developing and leading the annual Walkin’ the Country fundraising event, benefiting the BackPack Program™. Over four years, with a backpack strapped to his back, Chris has walked over 400 miles and raised a total of $118,000, which equates to a staggering 40,000 backpacks for children in need.
Mark Bordeau, Senior School Lunch Director, Broome-Tioga BOCES
Since the program’s inception in his local school district, Mark’s role has evolved from hands-on responsibility at the start, to an advocate for the program today. When the program became a permanent part of feeding hungry kids in Broome County, Mark coordinated deliveries, transporting the packs in the trunk of his car. Over time Mark has been integral in the BackPack Program™ reaching more schools and students. Today, he manages food service for more districts and serves on the Food Bank's Board of Directors. He constantly recruits volunteers and advocates for the program, nutritious food, and the issue of childhood hunger.
Karrie Denniston, Senior Director-Sustainability, Walmart Foundation
In 2005, Karrie was the Child Nutrition Program Coordinator at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier and was really the first person to work on the BackPack Program™ idea. Without her ingenuity and dedication, the BackPack Program™ would not be what it is today. Karrie crusaded the planning, coordination, and implementation of the program at three pilot sites. She never wavered on her mission and continually reminded others of the significance of their work to end childhood hunger. Her work set the foundation for what the program is today.
Ray Denniston, School Lunch Manager, Broome-Tioga BOCES
Ray has helped hungry children in need before there was a program in place and he played an active role in the BackPack Program™’s development in 2005 by leading the pilot site at Johnson City School District. Ray provided guidance from a school food service and delivery perspective. He also contributed to developing the logistics and process of a referral system that was informed and discreet, by working directly with school counselors and nurses.
Jerry Dietz, Owner, CSP Management
With a culinary background and a passion for community service, Jerry is an advocate for food justice issues and has brought childhood hunger to the forefront of this subject, which he works hard to resolve every day in his many professional and personal endeavors. He chairs the local Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation – a fundraising event that raises money for the Food Bank’s BackPack Program™. He also recruits volunteers in his community, no matter if they’re friends or strangers, to participate in the monthly BackPack Re-Pack events at Boynton Middle School in Ithaca.
James Frame, Superintendant, Greater Southern Tier BOCES
James Frame provided necessary guidance and support of the program when it came to Schuyler County. His leadership position granted him a holistic view of the great need within the county, especially childhood hunger. James' objective was to make sure students are given their best opportunity to succeed. True to his nature of being proactive and approachable, James went door-to-door to raise awareness and sign families up for the BackPack Program™.
Linda Golkiewicz, Home-School Counselor, Campbell-Savona Elementary School
As a school counselor, Linda’s office is a safe haven for students who lack basic life necessities. Her door is always open, and she makes sure her students have everything they need, including their packs of food every Friday. As a school counselor at a small school, Linda is able to get to know each and every child who participates in the program, and can see the difference the program makes on an individual basis. She has seen firsthand how the program benefits the entire family, not just the children.
Evelyn Stachowski, Food Bank Volunteer
Around the Food Bank warehouse, Evelyn is a familiar face. A volunteer since 2012, Evelyn has donated over 7,000 hours of her time, much of it supporting the BackPack Program™ by sorting foods building the packs. Over her four years of steadfast volunteerism, Evelyn has grown her contribution by acting as a liaison to fellow volunteers, welcoming them to the Food Bank and working alongside them as they prepare the packs to be delivered to students across the region.
St. Mary our Mother Catholic Church Congregation, Horseheads, NY
The congregation has been supporting the Food Bank with recurring donations since the 1990s. A member of the Church, who worked in the local school district, learned about the BackPack Program™ when it came to her school. She shared the information with her church, encouraging others to spread the word and support the program. The congregation responded and has supported the program ever since with recurring donations and volunteering time. Members appreciate being involved with a program that directly helps many children and families in their own community.
Wegmans Food Markets
As a corporate partner, Wegmans has been instrumental in the growth of the BackPack Program™ through donations and partaking in the Food Bank’s annual Fill the Bus campaign. The company, and its many stores and employees, truly lead by example and fulfil their decree of helping the communities in which they live and serve. Without Wegmans support, the Food Bank’s BackPack Program™ could not expanded into all 41 school districts in our service area.
388 Upper Oakwood Ave.
Elmira, New York 14903
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8-4
(Summer hours Mon.-Thurs. 8-4:30; Fri. 8-1)
The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. EIN 20-8808059