Volunteer of the year

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Over a year ago when Christy Meredith learned that many children at Southside Elementary School went home on the weekend to a house without food, she felt a strong urge to help them somehow.

Over the past year, Meredith's compassion for local children has led her to organize and lead a community outreach that now provides food for over 170 local students.

The "Shelby County Backpack Project" started out serving only students at Southside. The project now provides food for students at each of the elementary schools in the district. Every week Meredith, along with a coalition of local volunteers, can be found packing bags full of food for needy kids.

Meredith calls the packing house on Main Street her second home.

Meredith has received several awards for her service. The Shelby County Public School System has recently named Meredith as its volunteer of the year. Meredith has also has been awarded a service award by the Ohio Valley Association of School Administrators. She was also nominated as the state volunteer of the year.

Meredith was humble about all of the recognition that she has received of late.

"I would not have been able to do this if it weren't for the support of the other volunteers," she said. "I wish all of them could be recognized as well."

Each week Meredith and the members of the Backpack Program shop for all of the food that gets stuffed into the backpacks. Among her other duties, Meredith assists with organizing volunteers to pack the food for the schools as well as recruiting new volunteers and finding additional ways to support the food supply so that no student goes hungry over the weekend

The food is distributed to the students every Friday.

At Southside alone, Meredith and the Backpack Program serves 42 children each week. District wide, the Backpack Program serves approximately 170 and this number is growing.

Amanda Dungan, a teacher at Southside who serves on the Backpack board, said Meredith is an example to follow.

"Christy Meredith, with vision and passion for the Shelby County Backpack Program, has made a difference in the lives of not only the Southside Elementary students but with all the elementary students within the district," she said. "The Backpack Program gives students and the families a sense of safety by knowing that the community does care about their needs and that there will be food in the house on the weekends."

Meredith will be honored at the OVASA banquet on May 15.

Other local volunteers recently recognized:

SCHS: Cindy Moss

East Middle: Candice Jaremczuk

West Middle: Debby Buresh

Clear Creek: Laura Gordon

Heritage: Ida Damrel

Painted Stone: Carolyn Phillips

Simpsonville: Paul Baltzell

Wright: Belinda Brown

Preschool: Jelena Perry

Duanne Puckett, community relations coordinator for the schools, provided information for this article.