Every week, the Corbin Community Backpack Program (CCBP) fills backpacks with non-perishable food items for impoverished schoolchildren in Knox and Whitley Counties to take home over the weekends. Alex Cox, who finished his degree at Cumberlands in 2001, has participated in the program for years, and recently, he has been showing current Cumberlands students the ropes.

“It’s fantastic seeing Cumberlands students help out with the program,” said Cox. “Every student who shows up, I always tell them about my time at Cumberlands and what a great experience it was.”

Cox began volunteering with CCBP because one of his colleagues – a regular CCBP volunteer – kept nagging him about it, trying to get Cox involved. Eventually, Cox gave in. He liked the people who worked with the program, and he appreciated CCBP’s mission, so he continued coming.

At the time, CCBP was filling 350-400 backpacks a week. Six years later, that number has ballooned to 900.

Approximately 92 percent of the children at Whitley North Elementary School receive free or reduced-price lunches based on their families’ low incomes. Other schools in the area have similar percentages. The Corbin Backpack Program, Mountain Outreach, and local churches and food pantries all work to help these families have the food they need throughout the year.

“Food is such a basic necessity,” said Jamirae Holbrook, Executive Director for Extended Services at Cumberlands. “It can heavily impact how we act around others, what we accomplish in school and even how we view our lives. We want these kids to be full, happy and confident in their futures. Additionally, part of Cumberlands’ mission is to instill service and leadership into our students. The Backpack Program is making a difference for these children, and we are grateful to be a part of that.”

CCBP packs bags every Monday evening during the school year, and according to Cox, they could always use more volunteers. (For more information, follow Corbin Community Backpack Program on Facebook.) During summertime, when kids are at home, Cumberlands’ outreach program Appalachian Ministries hosts Bible camps for children in the area, and several local churches and ministries run food pantries or offer weekly community meals.