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United Way group stocks backpacks for students’ summer vacations

Members of the United Way’s Teen Board with items to be put in backpacks for local elementary school students.

Members of the United Way’s Teen Board with items to be put in backpacks for local elementary school students.

Staff Writer

Teen volunteers with United Way of Lincoln County recently packaged and donated activity bags to local elementary school children for the purpose of keeping their minds active all summer long.
The nonprofit organization’s Teen Board — students who attend Lincoln Charter and each of the county’s four public high schools except East Lincoln High School — frequently takes on projects throughout the year focused on meeting the needs of the community.
From a prom dress drive each spring to a winter coat drive and Angel Tree effort during the Christmas holiday, the board is constantly at work, according to the group’s newest chair, Lyndsey Leatherman.
After growing up in Lincolnton, graduating from West Lincoln High School in 2004 and moving out of town, Leatherman returned home last year.
United Way’s executive director, Kathy Vinzant, reached out to Leatherman earlier this year to take on the Teen Board leadership role.
The two previously worked together at Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse years ago, when Vinzant headed the nonprofit and Leatherman volunteered at the facility.
“We are so glad to have her back in a leadership role for our community,” Vinzant said. “It’s a perfect fit.”
The Teen Board’s most recent project included collecting children’s activity items, such as coloring books, crayons, word searches, pencils, flash cards and other fun-filled, educational materials, to pack in backpacks for students in grades K-3 at Battleground Elementary School in Lincolnton, Leatherman said.
Duke Energy donated 75 bags, while United Way purchased the filler items.
The Teen Board hopes the supplies will keep children learning during summer break.
Due to the short timeframe the board had to complete the project, they were only able to use the project to benefit one county elementary school.
Leatherman’s desire is to host board meetings more consistently and grow the group, adding extra student volunteers and ultimately tackling additional initiatives this coming school year.
Over the years, numbers have dwindled, diminishing a Teen Board once double in size.
Leatherman said her primary focus as chair will be catering to teens in the local foster care system.
She hopes to provide activities for older foster care children, urging United Way teen volunteers to interact with and care for citizens their own age.
“Usually, activities focus more toward younger kids,” she said. “I want to let them (foster teens) know that there are teens in the community who care, as well as adults.”
For more information on the Teen Board or United Way of Lincoln County, contact Kathy Vinzant at (704) 732-8055 or uwlincolnco@bellsouth.net.

Image courtesy of Contributed

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