Just in time for the holidays this week, some helpful elves visited the Rent Party Pantry BackPack Pals program.
Employees of Silver Jeans Co. spent Thursday morning packing and delivering backpacks with food to needy students in the South Orange - Maplewood School District.
Launched in 2011 by Rent Party founders David Wagner and Chris Dickson, the program bridges the gap in nutrition for kids who qualify for subsidized school lunches, by providing a weekend's worth of healthy, nourishing food.
"We're grateful to have been able to help out," said Doreen Panzer, Silver Jeans president of sales. A Maplewood resident, Panzer has long admired the good works of Rent Party and BackPack Pals. She spearheaded the morning as a team building and community service event for 14 of her employees.
In addition to the volunteer time, Silver Jeans donated $5,000 to BackPack Pals.
"Today we delivered 58 packs to Maplewood Middle School and Clinton Elementary School," said Wagner. "The program is now in seven schools, including Columbia High School, South Orange Middle School, Maplewood Middle School, Clinton Elementary School, Seth Boyden Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School and South Mountain Elementary School."
After delivering the packs, the volunteers returned to St. Joseph's Food Pantry to pack up more food.
This school year, the program has delivered over 500 backpacks and by the end of the year it will have donated a total of 2,300.
"Eighteen percent of students in our school district, or 6,000 students, qualify for free or reduced lunch," said Wagner.
"Chris and David are great guys who do so much," said Panzer. "I admire and appreciate them."
To donate to the Backpack Pals program, visit the Rent Party website. To volunteer at packing events, help shop for materials at Costco, or help deliver backpacks on Friday mornings between 9 and 10 a.m., email Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.