Wilson schools gear up for backpack giveaway

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Thousands of backpacks filled Fike High School’s gymnasium Tuesday as officials and volunteers geared up for Saturday’s big event — Wilson County Schools’ Operation Backpack.

The annual giveaway provides backpacks and school supplies to at least 3,000 of the school system’s neediest students.

“When we start the planning for Operation Backpack, every day becomes like Christmas,” said Amber Lynch, Wilson County Schools public relations director. “And it’s been that way for the past seven years.”

Lynch and public relations assistant Maritza Johnson coordinate the event each year.

“Donations start pouring in and then Maritza and I constantly receive texts, emails and voicemails about backpack drives happening all over town,” Lynch said. “We have a mini-celebration every time we open a check or receive a single backpack because we know it’s going to mean the world to one of our students.”

Lynch said the weeks right before the big event are especially exciting.

“That’s when the pile of backpacks starts growing from a few hundred to thousands,” she said.


Operation Backpack will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Fike High School. Doors open at 7 a.m. so families can be seated in the auditorium.

Families will be asked to fill out a registration card where they will list their child’s name and school. Officials said the child receiving the backpack has to be in attendance Saturday. Families will need to be in line together from the beginning. If other relatives show up later, they will have to go to the back of the line, officials said. Only Wilson County Schools students can receive a backpack. Free lunch will be provided.

Lynch said organizers have already surpassed their goal of 3,000 backpacks thanks to the generosity of individuals, businesses and groups throughout Wilson. Any extra backpacks from the event will be given to county schools that will distribute them to students throughout the year.


On Tuesday, Wilson Early College students and Merck employees unpacked, sorted and organized thousands of backpacks at Fike.

Wilson Early College student Lashell Cunningham, 14, could barely contain her excitement as she unloaded the backpacks.

“I just like helping people,” Lashell said. “It gives me joy to see other people are getting the stuff they need. A lot of people can’t get the supplies they need for school.”

Lynch said organizers wouldn’t be ready for Operation Backpack without the help from students and others.

“I am so grateful to Principal Nelson Johnston for allowing his students to volunteer,” Lynch said. “Helping us has sort of become a rite of passage for freshmen at WECA.”


Lynch said Wilson County Schools is especially grateful to the presenting sponsors who went above and beyond this year by contributing either $5,000 or 200-plus backpacks. They include Chick-fil-A, Merck, Vester Auto Group, Fresenius Kabi, Novartis and S.T. Wooten.

Wilson County Schools Superintendent Lane Mills said the system is home to 11,500 students and the reality is that half of them live in poverty.

“We understand the hardship placed on families at the beginning of each year when they have to purchase backpacks and school supplies,” Mills said. “The cost adds up and sometimes that means students arrive at school on the first day without the needed materials. I am so grateful to everyone who donated to Operation Backpack because it ensures our students show up to school prepared. Our students are incredibly lucky to live in a community that cares about them so much.”