Around this time each year, the back to school bug bites, leaving hundreds of Nashville children picking out the perfect lunchbox to match their backpack. However, for some, it’s not that simple. According to a 2015 study by the National Center for Children in Poverty, 26 percent of children in Tennessee live below the poverty line, meaning that something as seemingly simple as a pencil pouch or hand sanitizer might be out of reach for some families.
Two Nashville residents are looking to change that.
During November 2016, David Arteaga picked up a copy of The Contributor and read a feature on Nashville-based Lace Up With Love, an organization that collects backpacks, fills them with the basic necessities and delivers them to the homeless of Nashville.
Lace Up With Love President Jessica Thurmond herself was homeless nearly a decade ago. After getting on her feet, Thurmond partnered with three young professionals to found Lace Up With Love. Her supply-filled backpacks have changed the fate of Nashville’s homeless. So much so that Lace Up With Love will be expanding to provide backpacks for homeless and poverty stricken youth filled with food, hygiene products and educational materials.
“After reading the article, I texted my friend Daniel Peters to ask, ‘Do you think we could set up backpack collections at schools around town?’ and he was entirely on board,” Arteaga recalls. “Everything from there fell into place.”
Since then, their initiative to help those in need has set off.
Partnering with Peters during both of their gap years before attending graduate school, Arteaga began reaching out to local schools, including his alma mater Montgomery Bell Academy, and Harpeth Hall, to see how they could help.
“(Montgomery Bell Academy) and Harpeth Hall collected about 100 backpacks, 100 baseball caps and two pounds of soap,” Arteaga said. “Daniel and I are really glad the collections worked out.”
Arteaga credits Thurmond and headmasters Brad Gioia and Stephanie Balmer of Montgomery Bell Academy and Harpeth Hall with the smooth success of the backpack collection.
Now the backpacks are with Thurmond and her team and will soon be distributed to those in need.
“We were hoping to get involved in the community, and The Contributor article on Lace Up With Love showed us an avenue to do that,” Arteaga said.
Photo: Daniel Peters (left) and David Arteaga. Credit: David Arteaga.