On September 1, Big Blue Backpacks, Millikin University’s student-run organization that addresses food insecurity in local elementary schools, kicked off their seventh year of service on a bittersweet note. Mary Garrison, former professor of social work at Millikin and faculty advisor for Big Blue Backpacks since its inception in 2015-2016, said her goodbyes to the program and shared her wishes for its future.
Garrison announced that Marty Brilley, campus chaplain at Millikin, will be stepping in as faculty advisor for the organization during the coming year. Brilley, who also oversees the Big Blue Pantry on Millikin’s campus, will continue to move Big Blue Backpacks forward in their mission to serve students.
Student representatives of Big Blue Backpacks, along with representatives from the Decatur Public Schools Foundation, Dennis Lab School and American Dreamers STEM Academy, were present at the kick-off event to discuss the program and its accomplishments. “Over the last six years alone, we have provided over 280,000 food items for the students and food bags for more than 100 students over 27 weekends each year,” Kendall Rossignol, co-chair of Big Blue Backpacks and elementary education major, remarked.
When Big Blue Backpacks was formed, following a year of planning and development, their initial goal was to provide 80 backpacks full of food to students at Dennis Lab School. Since then, they have expanded to providing food to 100-160 students at both Dennis Lab School campuses, along with the American Dreamers STEM Academy, every weekend during the school year. The organization also protects the privacy of students receiving food.