Walmart Donates $10,000 to Local Backpack Program

Walmart Store Manager Greg Olliver, Walmart Associate Susie Fauset, and Molly Atwood, Program Director of Blessings in a Backpack, are joined by West Shamokin seniors Katie Davis, Joey Miller and Erin Crissman. The students volunteer weekly after school and fill the backpacks for the elementary students & families.

Representatives from Walmart in the Hilltop Plaza presented a check yesterday for $10,000 to the Blessings in a Backpack elementary school project.

The program currently serves 249 families in the Armstrong School District.

Molly Atwood, a mother of several children herself, realized the need of making sure students had access to nutritious food over the weekend. Backpacks are packed and distributed each Friday in various elementary schools.

Local Walmart Store Manager Greg Olliver said his East Franklin Township store noticed Molly and her helpers shopping each week.

“Molly’s organization comes to the store weekly. They buy merchandise for backpacks. We noticed was for a very good cause and we were able to do a $10,000 grant to help their organization going forward and expanding it to more families.”

Molly began organizing and running the program in 2015. By 2016, there were 120 children being served. That number has grown now to 249 families.

“We met with Molly here in the store,” Olliver said. “Then we applied for them to get that grant through our corporate channels. We were glad to help her get more money.”

This isn’t the first time the program has been given money. The Community Foundation, Armstrong Community Hospital Foundation, Snyder Associated Companies and other local businesses have helped out by writing checks.

Molly estimated it costs around $120 per student to fund the program for the 38 weeks school is in session. A backpack includes two breakfast items, two entrées and four snack items each weekend. All the food is in single-serving portions, a long expiration date, and is able to be prepared by elementary children.

Molly has been recognized by the Kittanning Lions Club when she received the “Heart of a Lion” award.

Olliver said this is the first time that the store has went outside its budget to request funds for this cause.

“We have a community grant program that can be looked into at walmart.com/foundation. Any non-profit can look at our corporate giving programs. But this one is something we did outside of the store’s budget,”  he said.

The Pittsburgh Food Bank in 2016 estimated there are 3,170 children in Armstrong County that are “food insecure,” meaning, “they lack reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable nutritious food.”

To learn more about the Blessings in a Backpack program, including how to become a volunteer, start a program, or join the fundraising efforts, or to donate, go online to BlessingsInABackpack.org.