By Jonah Grinkewitz

The first-ever “Monarchs Give Back” campaign culminated on Oct. 21 with a packing event for items to benefit children experiencing food insecurity in the region.

More than 200 students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered to pack nearly 1,400 weekend nutrition bags for Norfolk Public Schools. The campaign also raised an additional 2,000 individual items for the school system, and 2,500 more items were donated to the Monarch Food Pantry.

“Simply put, hungry kids can’t learn,” said Lisa Winters, senior director of school nutrition for Norfolk Public Schools. “The kid-friendly items provided through this initiative are a critical tool for academic achievement.”

“Monarchs Give Back” was started by President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., and first lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D., to coincide with the president’s inauguration and begin an annual effort to partner with the Hampton Roads community.

Along with Big Blue and student organizations and athletic groups, President Hemphill and his family led the packing line at the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center.

“My husband and I are always looking for ways to strengthen our connection with the local community and to make a difference in the lives of others,” the first lady said. “Therefore, in planning the inauguration activities we knew that this historic event for Old Dominion University could be utilized as a unique occasion to give back to the special place where we learn, live and work.”

Don Stansberry, vice president of Student Engagement and Enrollment Services at Old Dominion University, said he was excited when President Hemphill came to him with the idea, and they plan on building on their success next year.

“One of the things I think is so unique and so special about Old Dominion is that when we’re given a challenge and asked to step up, this community really comes together,” Stansberry said.

Zaria Gassaway, Student Government Association president, said the campaign is a new tradition that reflects the core values of being a Monarch.

“The acts of service and culture of community engagement have shined greatly throughout the month of October, and especially at this event,” she said.