Back-to-School Service Project Fills 1,500 Backpacks


CSM Partners with Charles County Children’s Aid Society

In less than three hours on Aug. 21, College of Southern Maryland employees demonstrated the power of teamwork by stuffing 1,500 backpacks with essential supplies for elementary through high school students who will be heading back to school in Charles County the end of August.

“We simply would not be able to do this project without the support of our community,” said Charles County Children’s Aid Society Chair Pamela Vahle. Children’s Aid received $10,000 from Carmax in Brandywine and a $2,500 grant from Navigant Consulting in Washington, D.C. to purchase book bags and supplies, with numerous other assorted donations provided from local businesses, community members and churches, according to Vahle.

“This project gave our college employees an opportunity to be personally involved in making an impact on many children in our community. This particular project hits close to home for our staff and faculty because we know the importance of supplies in the educational process. We are honored to have had the opportunity to work with the Children’s Aid Society in helping them to achieve their mission. Like so many nonprofits, their success helps to strengthen our community. We hope to see many of these children attending CSM in the future as we believe that an education is critical for changing lives, families and communities,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried, who pitched in as one of the volunteers stuffing backpacks and organizing them for distribution.

Throughout the Friday morning backpack stuffing efforts, approximately 100 employees, often juggling three and four backpacks at a time, deposited supplies into each one, including paper, composition books, pencils, pens, crayons, glue and glue sticks, scissors, erasers, pencil sharpeners, rulers and filled school boxes.

CSM Nursing Professor Rose Miller was among those stuffing the colorful backpacks. “I believe strongly in the college helping others,” Miller said. “We are a community and we look out for our own. I come from a family of eight. When I think back to my childhood and the days before the start of school each year, I know my parents would have loved a ‘helping hand’ getting all the school supplies for six kids. It is hard enough on the parents trying to give their children everything they need in this economy, so if I can be a part of making their life a little easier, I am all for it.”

In its 15th year of distributing free school supplies to the county?s students, Children?s Aid Society has partnered with CSM the past three years to help in stuffing the backpacks. This year, the college’s La Plata Campus also doubled as the distribution site for families picking up the backpacks Aug. 22. “We’re really excited to continue this partnership and expand it so that the kids can come on campus to actually pick up their bags,” Vahle said.

 “I personally enjoyed seeing the kids find a backpack that was the perfect color or design for their own individual personality. As a mom, I know how important that is and helps them get excited about walking out the door and onto the school bus,” said CSM’s Executive Assistant to the President Kim Yellman, who worked with CSM employees, Lead Coordinator Academic Support Heather Zeolla and Lead Conference Center Manager Annie Sutten, in coordinating the college’s participation.

At the Saturday distribution, families were greeted by the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs mascot, Pinch. In addition to the backpacks, they received free vouchers to attend a baseball game at the Regency Stadium during September as well as coupons for free frozen yogurt courtesy of sweetFrog in La Plata.

“Every kid deserves to start the new school year with the school supplies needed to be successful. I guess we love stuffing the backpacks because we want kids of all ages to have a good experience in the classroom and beyond,” Yellman said.

For information about Charles County Children’s Aid Society, visit For information about service projects and volunteer opportunities with nonprofit organizations within Southern Maryland, visit