Radford community comes together to give back

Lucia Gonzalez grabbed a can of beans from a cardboard box with her right hand and quickly moved it to her left hand.

She placed each can, one by one, with robotic precision – and a smile on her face – into white plastic shopping bags carried by volunteers who were moving from station to station collecting more food items.

They had cans of beans, soups, ravioli, fruit and veggies, oatmeal, popcorn, macaroni and cheese, various other snacks, and the 1,080 jars of peanut butter donated by the university’s Department of Facilities Management.

“That’s one of the items we tend to have trouble getting enough of for the packing event,” said Director of Student Involvement Jen Rentschler.


Freshman Lucia Gonzalez (left) swiftly fills shopping bags with cans of ravioli during the eighth annual Radford Gives Back on Sept. 27, 2023.

For nearly 30 minutes, hundreds of volunteers methodically moved around the MAC court inside the university’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center until each bag was full and placed onto the large R and U of the Radford logo at center court.

The occasion was Radford University’s eighth annual Radford Gives Back on Sept. 27. Student, faculty and staff volunteers donated and collected food items to distribute Bobcat Backpacks, a nonprofit community organization that serves Radford children with weekend food insecurity. 

Volunteers began collecting donations the day before, receiving more than 8,600 food items. More than 300 volunteers participated in the collection and packing process, and each volunteer had a reason for participating. Many participated on their own, while others volunteered as part of various campus organizations and athletics teams.

For Gonzalez, the event is an opportunity to give to children who are in a situation similar to her own while growing up.

“I personally know the struggle of not having a meal every day,” said the freshman theatre major from Washington, D.C., “So, I feel this is a great way for me to help, and it is really nice the university participates in this program.”

Radford senior Mack Mathis said she feels an obligation to the children of the community to lend a hand. “It’s important to help, especially when we have so much food insecurity in the area,” she said, preparing to hand out packages of oatmeal. “If we’re able and have the means to give back to the community, then we should.”

Roger Collins, interim superintendent for Radford City Schools, volunteered in the distribution line, handing out cans of ravioli just a few feet away from Gonzalez.

“This is an awesome event,” Collins said after placing his last can into a bag. “It’s great that Radford University and the community come together like this to serve others.”

After all the bags were filled, many volunteers carried them from the MAC court to a large white truck outside the center, where they would then be transported to the Bobcat Backpacks program.

Before the event began, the enthusiastic crowd heard welcoming remarks from Radford University President Bret Danilowicz and David Horton ‘90, mayor of Radford and communications officer for the Artis College of Science and Technology. “I’m a proud Highlander and proud Bobcat,” Horton said to the enthusiastic crowd. “This makes a huge difference in all of their lives.”

Radford City School Board Chair and Bobcat Backpacks co-founder Jenny Riffe, M.S.W. ’03, spoke about the prevalence of food insecurity and the importance of so many people volunteering their time to help.

The children who receive the food items “know there are people here at Radford University who care,” Riffe said, “and it will help them be successful in school.”

“These are not just jars of peanut butter,” Horton said. “They are fuel for the future.”


Oct 11, 2023
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761