Our Opinion: Operation Backpack sponsors, supporters earn pat on the back

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


Local businesses, nonprofits, families and individuals came through for Wilson County students, and the proof is on display this morning in the Fike High School auditorium.

Wilson County Schools will distribute 3,000 backpacks filled with school supplies today. With total public school enrollment hovering just below 12,000, the Operation Backpack giveaway will equip more than a quarter of our county’s kids for success when school bells ring on Aug. 27.

The cost of school supplies can vary widely, but the National Education Association pegs the average expense at $200 for elementary pupils, $330 for middle-schoolers and $375 for high school students. Some low-income families with multiple school-age children would be stretched to the breaking point if it weren’t for Operation Backpack.

The distribution runs from 9-11 a.m., doors open at 7 a.m. and in years past, families have been known to arrive at Operation Backpack before sunrise. Anyone who’s had to rouse a teenager from slumber at zero-dark-thirty on a Saturday understands the early and enthusiastic turnout demonstrates genuine need.

Each backpack donor deserves a pat on the back, and we join the school system in recognizing these community partners and expressing our gratitude for making an investment in Wilson’s workers, educators and leaders of tomorrow.

Presenting sponsors are Chick-fil-A of Wilson, Fresenius Kabi, Merck and S.T. Wooten Corp. Dozens of Wilson County boosters joined the effort as platinum, gold and silver sponsors and as individual contributors.

Superintendent Lane Mills explains the need: When students show up without basic supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, folders and, yes, backpacks, they start the school year without the ability to record, retain and apply their teachers’ lessons.

“I am so grateful to everyone who donated to Operation Backpack because it ensures our students show up to school prepared,” Mills told Times reporter Olivia Neeley for a story in Wednesday’s paper. “Our students are incredibly lucky to live in a community that cares about them so much.”

Wilson County Schools’ public relations staff — director Amber Lynch and assistant Maritza Johnson — coordinate the Operation Backpack campaign. They deserve recognition and thanks for their efforts, without which the donation drive wouldn’t be such a tremendous success.

“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.”

Sincerity shines through in conversations with Operation Backpack’s organizers, sponsors and supporters. Lynch said “every day becomes like Christmas” as the drive gets underway. It’s an apt comparison, as many donors opt to purchase school supplies and fill backpacks themselves to experience the joy of giving.

We wish the financial need in Wilson County wasn’t so great as to require a backpack blitz to equip a quarter of our students, but we marvel at the way our caring community lifts up its young scholars. It’s a prime example of a public-private partnership that leverages the school system’s organization, collection and distribution resources along with the generosity of our local businesses and families.

Students won’t know who sponsored their backpacks, but they will know that someone they’ve likely never met cared about them enough to buy the tools they need to learn. They can repay that generosity by doing their best to pay attention and participate in class, absorbing all the knowledge they can and using it to help improve others’ lives as future members of Wilson’s workforce.

To students savoring the last week of summer, teachers preparing lesson plans and administrators working to swing open the schoolhouse doors, we wish you a fun and fulfilling 2018-19 school year.

To every institution, family and individual who helped make Operation Backpack a success, we extend a grateful community’s sincere thanks. Wilson County Schools couldn’t do it without you.