Despite all of the advances in technology and communication, navigating childhood remains fraught with obstacles that can make the path to every student realizing their full potential a less than level playing field. Schools may provide the venues and curriculum to help get them off on the right foot. Various economic and home-based factors sometimes mean that every student cannot show up to school equally equipped with all of the supplies necessary to ensure academic success.
Jacki Johnson is the CEO and Founder of Fulton County Pack A Backpack. Since 2006, Jacki has spearheaded and guided the efforts to compile backpacks stocked with essential school supplies that are made available for free to any student in need in Fulton County.
“In 2019, we gave out over 620 backpacks,” Jacki said, referring to a distribution event that usually occurs during the first week of August each year.
The supplies themselves are accumulated based on lists provided by each of the schools serving Fulton County. Funds from grants and donations secure needed supplies. Grants and donations make it possible for this non-profit organization to acquire the necessary supplies to be successful.
“The United Way and the Fulton County Community Foundation really stepped up to help us- it’s just amazing as well as Mill Creek Missionary Church's congregation came together and donated over 6000.00,” Johnson said, to name a couple of standouts.
Donations are accepted year-round at the Tidewater Executive Tax Service offices, a downtown business that Jacki founded in 1996. The supplies and backpacks are purchased, and those who need them are asked to fill out a form to facilitate each families’ needs. Distribution dates are scheduled and people are invited to get their bags and fill them as per their school’s list ahead of the beginning of the fall academic year. The event itself is held at The Belle Chasse Party Venue, an event space created by Jacki and her husband Jeff in 2011, and usually lasts for two days or until supplies run out.
This past year the coronavirus pandemic created new challenges for the distribution of supplies. Volunteers worked to ensure that everyone followed COVID-19 guidelines while still getting the supplies that each child needed. Fulton County Pack a Backpack provided standard supplies and 500 hand-made face masks, made possible through donations from the Fulton County Historical Society. “People still came, despite COVID,” Jacki said. “We even gave supplies to the home schooled kids who asked for them.”
In addition to the Pack A Backpack program, Jacki initiated a local coat drive to ensure that any member of the community in need is prepared for winter weather. Donations for the coat drive are accepted at Tidewater offices, however, distribution is located at The Outlet Youth Center.
“They have more space, so the coats, gloves, scarves, etc., are transferred to them to give out, and any money allocated to the coat drive is given to the Youth Center.”
Jacki truly appreciates the idea of investing in a community. She does this by ensuring that its youngest and most vulnerable members have access to necessities needed to thrive. She hopes that those she has helped will be more likely to help those in need in the future.