BENNINGTON -- Southwestern Vermont Health Care's annual Magnet Community Group Backpack Drive successfully collected bag and supply donations to fill and donate 280 backpacks to 18 elementary schools in its service area.

Comprised of SVHC employees from various departments, the Magnet Community Committee began collecting donations in May in pursuit of its goal of 150 backpacks, which was well surpassed.

"The committee is a group of employees who are really committed to seeking ways to support members of our community to have the hospital be a vibrant part of the community," said Carol Conroy, SVHC chief nursing officer and vice president of operations. "This is one of several activities that this committee sponsors.

SVHC’s Magnet Community Committee displays the 280 backpacks they are donating to area schools for its 2014 backpack drive.
SVHC's Magnet Community Committee displays the 280 backpacks they are donating to area schools for its 2014 backpack drive. (Supplied photo)
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The annual drive began in 2006, and every year the committee receives feedback from each school to adjust the requests for school supply donations that make up the contents of each bag. In addition to school supplies, donations include healthy snacks, toothbrushes and other health care items.

The backpacks are being distributed among schools in Vermont, New York and Massachusetts. The number of participating schools grows every year. When the drive began, backpacks were only donated to Molly Stark and Bennington Elementary.

"These backpacks go to schools where our employees come from and their children go to," said Jean Cody, SVHC Magnet Program Director.

"We have really branched out to all the schools (in our service area).


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The backpacks are distributed according to an algorithm based on the number of students who participate in each school's free lunch program. Each school then determines on their own which students are in need of supplies and distributes the bags accordingly.

The backpacks are donated by staff in each of SVHC's 35 departments, and becomes somewhat of an informal competition among them every year.

Centers for Living and Rehabilitation collected the highest number of backpacks at 120. CLR's Adam Shortsleeve alone donated 13 backpacks.

The cancer center came in second place by bringing in 52 backpacks for the drive.

The SVHC staff prides itself as a three-time, soon to be four-time designee of the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Magnet Recognition Program. In receiving that recognition, Conroy said that the hospital has made Magnet more of a culture, in which everything from housekeeping, community focus and nursing care play a part.

"It's a culture that leads to things like this backpack effort, and now it includes multiple departments of the health system, not just the hospital that participates in this," said Kevin Robinson, SVHC communications director.

The Magnet committee sprang out of the desire for all of SVHC to live up to the standards of excellence that Magnet requires.

Conroy said those standards are now multifaceted, every component of which, "is part of our striving to create a healthy community. Our mission here is to create excellent care and comfort to the people we serve. Part of giving that excellent care is helping to develop relationships within the community and supporting healthy habit for, in this case, our young people," she said.

SVHC also welcomes community donations for future back to school drives.

The next Magnet Community Committee event is the CLR/Support and Services at Home Christmas Program, in which gifts will be collected and given to department residents and senior citizens.

Find SVHC online at http://svhealthcare.org/services/medical-center/. Learn more about Magnet at http://svhealthcare.org/about-us/magnet/.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg