Backpacks of Love gets high honors

Published 12:01 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cumberland County Public Schools was recently recognized by Gov. Terry McAuliffe for its drive to make sure each student succeeds by ensuring that no student goes hungry.

Cumberland County Elementary School coordinators in Cumberland County were winners of the 2017 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award, McAuliffe announced April 20.

The award was under the category of “Outstanding Education Organization.”

Backpacks of Love (BPOL) — the organization that works with the schools — gives kids in elementary and middle schools backpacks filled with food to take home with them over the weekends.

According to a press release announcing the award, Backpacks of Love has given 40,000 backpacks (or approximately 240,000 meals) to students in Powhatan, Cumberland and Buckingham counties.

According to the release, 65 percent of students in Cumberland are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and are in danger of being hungry.

Bobby Fulcher founded the organization after his experience growing up hungry and not wanting other kids in the community to experience the same.

Fulcher said he has been excited by the award.

“I’ve been honored and ecstatic,” Fulcher said. “Anytime you receive an award from the governor’s office, it is an honor.”

He said BPOL began in 2011, starting with 23 backpacks in Powhatan County at Pocahontas Elementary School.

Now in its sixth year, the organization has expanded to serving four counties.

He said BPOL will begin serving two additional school divisions in Amelia and Goochland starting this fall.

“I feel extremely blessed to be able to do this,” Fulcher said, who said his family and the community have offered an enormous amount of support. “When God granted me this platform, I promised Him I would start an organization such as this. Feeding hungry kids has been my passion and my mission.”

Virginia Gills, principal of Cumberland Elementary School, said the volunteers who attended the ceremony, Carol Allen, Pat Parker and Arlene Robinson, were well deserving of the award.

“We are very proud of that,” Gills said. “They have made lots of contributions to this effort.”

She said the three even help during the summer months, meaning their volunteering happens year-round. She said one volunteer is a parent and two are grandparents. Gills said one grandparent does not have children or grandchildren in the school division. Gills said each volunteer shows similar compassion and energy.

“That just speaks volumes to who they are,” Gills said. 

McAuliffe congratulated Backpacks of Love and the eight other organizations and individuals who were recipients of the award, noting their creative and compassionate service plays integral roles in their communities.

“I am proud and honored to celebrate Virginia’s outstanding volunteers who have made such enormous contributions to those in need throughout the commonwealth,” McAuliffe said in the release.

“These individuals, organizations and companies set an example for us all to give back to our communities and embody the spirit of service which makes Virginia a special place to live and work.”

To learn more about Backpacks of Love, visit backpacksoflove.org or call (804) 598-2723.