GJSD “Backpack Program” Receives $10,000 Donation from Johnstown Hospital Foundation

three men and three women pose in front of a purple and yellow wall outside

Left to Right: GJSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Crankshaw; GJSD teachers and Backpack Program co-coordinators for the District, Olivia Barnett and Jessica Holt; GJSD teacher and a trustee of the Johnstown Hospital Foundation board, Kimberly Preston; Paul VanDenburgh and Steve Van Arnam with the Johnstown Hospital Foundation.

The Greater Johnstown School District’s Backpack Program recently received a $10,000 donation from the Johnstown Hospital Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to fostering and improving the quality of medical, hospital and extended care for the residents of Fulton County.

The Backpack Program provides District families in need with weekly backpacks filled with nutritious and easy to prepare food and snacks. The program has been in existence for nearly a decade and has served more than 10,000 backpacks of food to Johnstown families. On average, the program serves between 30-35 students in grades PK-7 annually. This past school year, that number rose to 41 students. 

Sixth grade science teacher Jessica Holt (Knox Middle School) and kindergarten teacher Olivia Barnett (Pleasant Avenue Elementary) are District co-coordinators for the GJSD Backpack Program and have been serving in that role since 2015. 

Holt and Barnett work alongside Warren Street teacher Amanda Bishop and JHS science teacher Hanz Litz to fill backpacks on a weekly basis. Hanz’s students at JHS assist with the delivery of filled backpacks to each school building, and backpacks are then distributed to students to bring home to their families. Families also receive Stewart’s milk and egg cards. 

GJSD’s Backpack Program is supported through monetary contributions that District employees have automatically deducted from their paychecks, as well as community donations. The program costs about $10,000 annually and Holt said the donation from Johnstown Hospital Foundation will cover the costs to run the Backpack Program for the entire 2024-2025 school year. 

“It is a huge relief to know that we can continue to support the students of Johnstown with the extra food they so desperately need,” Holt said. “The number of families in need has definitely increased over the years, and unfortunately, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. This $10,000 donation will go directly towards our students and their families and will have a tremendous impact on our program,” she added.

“The Johnstown community continually goes above and beyond to help our young students and their families. We are so fortunate to have such strong community partners that not only support our pursuit of academic excellence, but the overall well being of our students,” GJSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Crankshaw said.

Anyone can help support the District’s Backpack Program. Monetary donations can be sent to the Regional Food Bank, and can be applied to the program by writing “Johnstown Backpack Program” in the check memo line.

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