Partner Spotlight: BackPack Beginnings

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

A news story shown on Washington D.C. television about a teacher in Texas who was slipping food into children’s backpacks stuck with Parker White as she moved back to Greensboro and started raising her family.

“I couldn’t get it out of my head,” White, the executive director of Backpack Beginnings, said. “So I called the school system and asked if there was a hunger issue here. They said yes, and explained how some groups were helping, but more was always needed. I figured I could help one school. One led to two, and two led to three, and here we are.”

Since 2010, the organization has served more than 111,000 children, filled more than 17,000 comfort backpacks, and distributed nearly 3.5 million pounds of food. Backpack Beginnings provides food, comfort, and clothing directly to children in need. “We started in schools, but we quickly realized there are basic needs all over the county. We wanted to meet families where they already are, so we started talking with pediatricians’ offices, nonprofits, and service agencies so that we can partner with them.”

That’s how White connected with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) a few years ago. Initially, the topic was diapers, a huge need for families with babies and toddlers. “With Ready Ready’s help, we were able to establish a partnership with the North Carolina Diaper Bank,” White said. “Now we are giving out tens of thousands of diapers and anticipate that continuing to grow.”

More recently, Backpack Beginnings and Ready Ready have partnered in a program called Book Beginnings. This program places shelves filled with new and gently used books in strategic locations across Guilford County, distributing thousands of free books to encourage a love of reading. “The goals of the program include book ownership and book abundance,” White said.

“During the pandemic, we’ve held drive-through events and our volunteers come back with stories about how children are so excited to have these books that they start screaming and clapping. And it’s not one book per child. We want them to have a love of reading and start their own little library at home,” she said.

“Thanks to a new grant from Duke Energy Foundation, we will purchase 6,500 new books for Guilford County children. Working with Backpack Beginning, we are focused on early literacy,” said Heather Adams, Ready Ready’s director of family engagement and literacy initiatives. “Research shows that children raised in a home with books positively impacts their readiness for school and future success in life.”

“We gave out 12,000 books last fiscal year, and we hope to double that this year,” White said. “We are a better organization for our collaboration with Ready Ready and other organizations. Together we are seeing the needs in our community and providing the resources and services that help our families.”

BackPack Beginnings joined Ready Ready’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II and reported great results for the Family Market which opened in 2022. “Staff and volunteers didn’t have a clear understanding of responsibilities when it comes to our new Family Market. Since multiple people were assigned the same tasks, like stocking the shelves, the tasks were not always completed because staff and volunteers thought others were taking care of them. The process map was one of the most helpful things we did. When we assigned staff and volunteers to each process, it was easier to see the distribution of responsibilities and if the balance was correct and manageable,” White said.

As BackPack Beginnings continues to follow its mission to deliver child-centric services to feed, comfort, and clothe children in need, it serves more than 21,000 children each year.

Coaching for Literacy awards grant

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Teaming with the North Carolina A&T State University men’s and women’s basketball teams, Coaching for Literacy has awarded Ready Ready a grant as part of its #Fight4Literacy initiative.

It’s a movement of coaches, teams, influencers, and businesses to promote childhood reading.

Funds are raised through social media, donations, and businesses donating a portion of their sales to the effort. Ready Ready will use the grant to expand our early literacy efforts.

In addition to the grant, Coaching for Literacy has worked with NC A&T to record videos of track and field athletes reading stories. The storytime videos will be shared with local child care centers in Guilford County.

Early literacy efforts recognized with grant

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

We are excited to share that a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation has recognized how Ready Ready encourages literacy for Guilford County’s youngest children. We are one of 51 organizations that received grants totaling $1 million to address pandemic learning loss in North Carolina.

“Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) thanks Duke Energy Foundation for its generous support of our early literacy programs, designed to meet the greatest educational needs of young children during the pandemic,” said CEO Charrise Hart. “This funding will allow us to prepare Guilford County toddlers and preschoolers for kindergarten through the implementation of pre-literacy programming and active reading strategy training sessions.”

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality featured contributions from Ready Ready and Program Manager Michelle Chapin in its new brief, “Embedding Equity in Early Childhood Initiatives.” 

It’s part of a larger project entitled the Early Childhood Health Equity Landscape Project (ECHE.) The brief highlights how eight organizations, including Ready Ready, have set equitable goals and outcomes, received support from their communities, faced barriers, and have been impacted by factors such as COVID-19 and structural racism.

Child Trends is the nation’s leading research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives of children and youth, especially those who are most vulnerable, according to its website. North Carolina is one of 38 students studied by the group.

To read the report, please visit the Child Trends website.