During her 12th birthday celebration, Olivia Gillespie wasn’t thinking about receiving new and cool toys. Instead, she thought about the well-being of other children.
For Olivia’s friends and other party-goers it’s becoming routine to bring food instead of presents to donate to the Backpack Buddies program for Clinton City Schools. This special occasion is the third year the Sampson Middle School student wanted everyone to bring non-perishable food items.
“I feel happy that I can help people who need food,” Olivia said. “It makes me feel good about myself and I know that I’m doing something right.”
Backpack Buddies, a program operated by local churches, provides food to children from low-income families with the help of organizations and individuals, such as Olivia. Volunteers associated with the program supply more than 200 children a week with food for the weekend when there is a shortage at home.
To help the organization, Olivia collected eight large boxes of food, which took up the family’s entire kitchen table. It’s about the same amount from the previous year.
“I wanted to see if I can collect more this year than last year but it was about the same,” Olivia said about helping others.
The program came to Sampson County about six years ago. Children benefiting from the program are chosen by teachers and other professionals in the Clinton and Sampson County school systems.
Her parents, Perry and Anna Gillespie, said they were proud of her decision to help people in need.
“Her dad and I were so excited that she wanted to do it again to try to get as much food as she could for the Backpack Buddies program,” Anna said. “I guess I feel honored that she has a big enough heart that she still wants to do this and help people.”
Along with helping others, she enjoys playing soccer, dancing and playing piano. She previously completed mission work at Grove Park Baptist Church.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.