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

Smithland Elementary School in Harrisonburg.
Smithland Elementary School in Harrisonburg.(WHSV)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 9:06 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Local college students and spring cleaners, keep reading.

Before tossing unwanted items in the trash while moving home for the summer or cleaning up your home, one 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 the school. Bags contain food to make meals and grab-and-go items, like peanut butter, jelly, and crackers.

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

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

She said they also do various fundraisers too, like a yard sale that is coming up in July. One of the biggest contributors of items is James Madison University students as they are moving out of town for the summer, Phillips said.

“Students have things they don’t need anymore or don’t fit into their cars that end up getting thrown out,” Phillips said. “We want to make sure those items aren’t going into our landfills and we want to give those items a chance to have a second life in somebody else’s home.”

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

“We can take furniture items, home goods, clothing. 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 toiletry items. Even if it’s something we can’t sell at our yard sale, we are happy to go through those donations for students or for anybody and get them into the appropriate places. We have connections with various shelters and charities in town.”

Phillips said it costs about $50 to sponsor a child for half of a year and $100 to sponsor a child for a full year. The last yard sale raised over $1,000, which was able to sponsor about 10 children for the entire year.

The yard sale will happen sometime in July, weather depending. Until then, Phillips said she will be storing all the items at her home.

Several Harrisonburg schools have Backpack Programs. If you are interested in donating, click here.

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