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Backpacks from Golden State

Not every kid returned to school in September with the necessary supplies.

But the Golden State Foods Foundation is helping make sure that some middle-school youngsters are equipped for academic success.

The foundation is distributing approximately 100 backpacks stuffed with school supplies – notebooks, pens, pencils, paper, Crayons and glue sticks – to middle-school students in need of help, said Darlene Wilson, a spokeswoman at the company’s plant in Wilroy Industrial Park.

Suffolk Public School administrators are helping identify the students who would benefit most from the donations, she added. Thus far, 25 backpacks have sent to sent to John Yeates and John F. Kennedy middle schools respectively; the remaining 50 will be divvied up among the other middle schools as the company hears from principals.

The foundation spent about $2,000 buying the backpacks and some supplies, Wilson said. An office supply company, United Stationers, provides the rest of the school supplies – along with an extra 100 or so boxes of Crayons and glue sticks that were donated to the school system’s Operation School Supplies for elementary students.

“This is a way for us (GSF employees) to help improve the lives of children and their families in the area where we live and work,” said Wilson. The foundation also sponsors the Shoes that Fit program, which provides free shoes and socks for needy elementary school children in Suffolk Public Schools.

“Our small group of associates is committed to making a difference in the lives of children in need in the areas where we live and work,” said Wilson. “Once you have participated in a program like Shoes That Fit, you are forever touched by the effect your small gift can have on a child and you look for new ways to repeat the experience.

“I use the example that a payroll deduction of just $5 per week can have a powerful impact on the lives of 10 or 15 children.”

The local foundation is funded entirely through employee payroll donations and fundraisers organized by the 82 employees who work at the Suffolk plant, Wilson said.

Employees pledged more then $26,000 in 2008, Wilson said. The foundation funds all sorts of community programs that benefit people living in areas serviced by the Suffolk Golden Foods’ office, in cities from Richmond south to Greenville, N.C.

Programs funded by the foundation last year include the Kids Cafe (Foodbank), Junior Achievement and the Ronald McDonald Houses in Norfolk and Richmond.

The foundation has also given grants to the Children’s Hospital for the King’s Daughters, the Suffolk Children’s Center, the March of Dimes and to other charities recommended to the foundation’s board by a Golden Foods’ employee.

It’s not just money that employees give, Wilson added. Employees also volunteer with organizations within their local communities.

Right now, Golden States is working with a special incentive through its corporate foundation, Wilson said. For every hour a local employee volunteers in the community for a nonprofit, the corporate foundation will donate $20 to the local foundation.