Story by Jen Zettel , USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Read the story at postcrescent.com
RECIPIENT: Marie Waddell, program coordinator for Ferber Elementary School’s Blessings in a Backpack program.
AWARD: The Daniel P. Spalding Volunteer Educator of the Year Award, sponsored by School Specialty, Inc. The award recognizes an individual or group with a history of dedication to education.
BIOGRAPHY: A former teacher, Waddell began volunteering at Ferber Elementary when her family moved to Appleton in 2011. She and her husband have two children.
VOLUNTEER FOOTPRINT: Waddell is active in Ferber’s PTO and helped organize school events when she was president. She also spearheaded the Blessings in a Backpack program, which gives students who are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch healthy food to eat on the weekends. She’s also a Girl Scout troop leader and volunteer for Special Olympics.
HER VOICE: When the family moved to Appleton, Waddell thought getting involved at her children’s school would be a good way to meet people and give back to the community.
“I had been a teacher before I had kids and just knew that parent help and volunteers were a huge piece of a successful school, so being on the parent end of it, I jumped right in to help,” she said.
She heard about the Blessings in a Backpack program before moving to Appleton. She thought it would be a good fit for Ferber, and found support from Principal Paul Cooney and the PTO.
The PTO provided much of the funding when the program started, but since then, the majority of the program is funded through grants. The Green Bay Packers Foundation contributed $2,000. Walmart and the Lawrence University Women’s Basketball Team have pitched in. The PTO still contributes, as do families and teachers.
“We have close to 70 students who are taking food home to help their family,” Cooney wrote in his nomination letter. “Marie recruits volunteers, orders backpacks, solicits donations — including over $2,000 from the Green Bay Packers (Foundation) and packs these backpacks each week. I am amazed at what one person, Marie Waddell, is capable of doing to help so many people.”
When she found out she was nominated for the award, Waddell said she was flattered and humbled.
“I couldn’t pack and deliver 70 bags every week by myself. I’ve got great volunteers and great support from the teachers and staff at Ferber,” she said.
Overall, the program has brought the school together.
“As a whole I think it’s really created a community within our school,” she said.