Community Maplewood South Orange

PHOTO: As Wagner Steps Down, South Orange & Maplewood Honor Rent Party BackPack Pals Program

Donna Coallier, Karen Hilton, Walter Clarke, Sheena Collum, David Wagner, Bob Zuckerman, Summer Jones and Steve Schnall. June 24, 2019.

On June 24, South Orange and Maplewood issued a joint proclamation honoring and extending congratulations to Chris Dickson and David Wagner for their “tireless commitment, dedication and work in making the Rent Party ‘BackPack Pals’ Program a success in the South Orange and Maplewood communities.”

Founded in 2011, the program sends scores of children in the school district home with food over the weekend in order to bridge the gap for food-insecure families. Wagner will be stepping down from his work with BackPack Pals at the end of this month.

The proclamation was presented at the South Orange Board of Trustees meeting on June 24, 2019.

The proclamation reads as follows:


WHEREAS, it is the intention of the Village President of the Township of South Orange Village and the Mayor of the Township of Maplewood to focus attention on noteworthy occasions and individuals; and

WHEREAS, the toughest thing about fighting hunger in the Township of South Orange Village and the Township of Maplewood is that for years many did not focus their attention and concern on the fact that the problem exists; and

WHEREAS, through the unselfish efforts of CHRIS DICKSON AND DAVID WAGNER; Rent Party’s “BackPack Pals” has attempted to address the issue of child hunger and bring community attention to same by striving to send our communities’ school kids in need home with food for the weekend and holidays; and

WHEREAS, “BackPack Pals” was founded by Rent Party organizer CHRIS DICKSON in September 2011, with the aim to provide kid-friendly, shelf-stable food to school children in South Orange and Maplewood who may receive free in-school breakfast and lunches during the week, but may face the prospect of a weekend without food. Items are distributed in the students’ backpacks and book bags at the end of the school week. CHRIS, through his efforts as the head of Rent Party has identified and utilized many sources to keep the BackPack Pals program funded; and

WHEREAS, DAVID WAGNER began running the program as the Director in November 2011, as a stay-at-home dad, thus given more than his fair share of time coordinating the volunteer food drives and packing events through local participation. One can say that while DAVID was considered parttime, he never considered himself as such providing full-time hours to this wonderful cause. During his volunteer tenure, DAVID was able to identify local community groups to organize “BackPack Pals” drives, work with social workers in each school throughout the South Orange-Maplewood School District, and obtaining sponsorship for children which may be done monthly at $25.00, for half the school year at $85.00, and for the entire school year at $175.00. Donations of food and money may be anonymous as are the student recipients, and groups such as the Girl Scouts and the local Police Benevolent Associations have organized, collected and donated food; and

WHEREAS, through the outstanding and commendable efforts of CHRIS and DAVID, “BackPack Pals” since its inception, has benefited approximately 85 children per year and only wishes to help more. However, neither CHRIS nor DAVID allow themselves to take full responsibility for the success of “BackPack Pals”. Both gentlemen attribute the success of this program to the large response they received from the communities that have united and answered the call, either through donations, drives, collecting and delivering; and

WHEREAS, DAVID has announced his intention to step down as Director of “BackPack Pals” at the end of the school term in June 2019; however, we know that while he shall be missed as Director, he shall not be too far away and continuing to assist as needed. Never shall DAVID be forgotten; and

WHEREAS, through CHRIS DICKSON and DAVID WAGNER’s work with, and commitment to “BackPack Pals”; they have earned the respect and admiration of all in the South Orange-Maplewood School Community as well as the same from the municipal governments in the Township of South Orange and Maplewood.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT PROCLAIMED, that we, Sheena C. Collum, Village President of the Township of South Orange Village, and Victor De Luca, Mayor of the Township of Maplewood, on behalf of the South Orange Board of Trustees, the Maplewood Township Committee, the residents of the Township of South Orange Village and the Township of Maplewood, and ourselves, hereby do proclaim that with great pride, we recognize, honor and congratulate CHRIS DICKSON and DAVID WAGNER for their noble and wonderful work with “BackPack Pals”. We encourage all citizens to continue to support the efforts of the most noteworthy cause.

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