An initiative that provides non-perishable food for children in need on weekends and during school breaks, the CPS backpack program is substantially dependent on volunteers and donations.

COMMERCE – Commerce Public Schools was recently the recipient of a $1,000 grant for its backpack program thanks to the efforts of an employee with Sodexo at NEO A&M College in Miami.

An initiative that provides non-perishable food for children in need on weekends and during school breaks, the CPS backpack program is substantially dependent on volunteers and donations. The program is maintained by community and church volunteers who facilitate it through the elementary and middle schools in partnership with CPS.

General Manager Cathy Cunningham and Unit Marketing Coordinator Maria Olson with Sodexo at NEO A&M met with administrators at CPS Dec. 13 to present a check for the grant money from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation.

For nearly two decades the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, a nonprofit entity of the global Sodexo company, has been mobilizing volunteers, including Sodexo employees, clients, customers and youth to contribute to hunger-free communities across the nation and around the world through various programs and grants.

Olson applied for funds on behalf of CPS after becoming aware of the grant opportunity through the Sodexo corporate weekly newsletter. Soon she learned her application was successful, and CPS was designated as one of 80 grant recipients for school backpack programs across the nation this year.

As an added benefit, the grant can be reapplied for annually.

"We are able to reapply for this grant every year," said Olson. "So this is something that at the end of the school year, once we complete our reporting duties for the grant, then we can reapply and hopefully get another $1,000 for the next school year."

CPS Superintendent, Jim Haynes added that his school district is always appreciative and supportive of help from the community, especially in the wake of budget cuts that removed Commerce's school-based social worker, which was once supported through a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

He also praised the efforts of CPS staff who have stepped up to fill those gaps and help continue efforts like the ongoing backpack program, such as Angela Brough, the school counselor for Alexander Elementary.

"She goes wherever she is needed and graciously took over," said Haynes.

"We are always so grateful for all of the help we have received from the community, Sodexo, and all our local organizations and churches," said Brough.

Persons interested in supporting the CPS backpack program should contact the CPS Superintendent's Office at 918-675-4316 for more information.

Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor for the Miami News-Record. Contact her at dballard@miaminewsrecord.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.