Campus collects more than 14,000 items for Radford Gives Back food drive

Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill and President Brian O. Hemphill help their 3-year-old twins, Cruz and Catalina, collect food for the Radford Gives Back food drive.

Radford University gave back to the community in a big way this week.

A campuswide service project called Radford Gives Back resulted in the collection of more than 14,000 non-perishable food items to benefit local food assistance programs.

University and community volunteers gathered in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center on Oct. 11 to organize the thousands of food items. In assembly-line style, more than 250 sets of helping hands stuffed plastic bags full of food and loaded them onto a truck.

Granola bars, soup, macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables and applesauce were just a few of the requested items on the kid-friendly list.

Much of the food will fill the stomachs of area schoolchildren.

The amount collected is estimated to feed 100 Radford City Public School (RCPS) pre-K-12 students for 14 weeks. Food will be distributed through the Bobcat Backpacks Program, a 501(c) 3 community-sponsored organization, with support from the Highlander Helpers Backpack Program, a Radford University club. Both programs provide weekly bags of food for children to take home on the weekends.

Students, faculty and staff donated the items during the weeks leading up to the food drive, which was held in conjunction with President Brian O. Hemphill's inauguration celebration.

President Hemphill and his wife, Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill, have been champions of service throughout their professional careers.

Marisela Rosas Hemphill addressed participants during a short program held prior to the Oct. 11 event.

"Community service is so important to me and my family," she said. "My husband and I are always looking for ways to connect with the local community. Therefore, when we were planning the inauguration activities, we knew an event at Radford University could be used as a special occasion to give back to the place that we all live, work and learn. This evening it is very clear that the Radford family cares deeply for one another. My family and I could not be more proud to be part of the Highlander family."

Senior Katherine Kammer, president of Highlander Helpers, said she was overwhelmed by the support.

"I don't think I can even put in words how proud and thankful I am of the RU community," Kammer said.

"It's amazing what you can accomplish when you work together. These children we serve are our future and even future Highlanders, so to be able to support them and provide food for them is awesome."


Highlander Helpers began as a class project in 2007. It grew into an organized university club in 2010 – its members serving about 10-15 McHarg Elementary School students each week. An increased need for weekend food was identified, and the club soon started serving more than 60 students throughout the entire school system.  As the numbers continued to grow, the Highlander Helpers looked to the community for support.

In January 2016, Bobcat Backpacks was created as an autonomous program run by community members working under the Belle Heth Elementary School PSA. Highlander Helpers now support Bobcat Backpacks through fundraising efforts and food drives.

Bobcat Backpacks founders Daniela Brunner, Jenny Riffe and Jane Fisher are mothers of RCPS students and proud Radford University alumnae.

"This has been a wonderful town-gown relationship," said Riffe. "The outreach has been amazing. The linkage between Radford University and the surrounding community is so important, and that's what tonight's event is all about."

Highlander Helpers volunteer with Bobcat Backpacks each week to pack the weekend food bags at a local church.

"My kids get to see college students giving back," said Fisher. "They're our role models."

The women agreed they are excited to see the Hemphill family already involved with the local community.

"We love the fact that they care so much," Riffe said. "Since they've arrived, it's like they've said 'Radford is our home, and this is how we treat it.'"

To learn more about Highlander Helpers, visit their Facebook page.

To learn more about the Bobcat Backpacks program, email or follow their Facebook page.

Oct 12, 2016
Mary Hardbarger