Students of a local elementary school will have full smiles and bellies thanks to the support of Soldiers from XVIII Airborne Corps.

Soldiers of Company C, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, donated 500 pounds of food to the Brentwood Elementary School in Fayetteville, on April 19.

A platoon leader for Co. C, HHB, XVIII Airborne Corps, 2nd Lt. Colleen Patton, was looking for ways her unit could give back, when she discovered the Communities in Schools organization and its Backpack Buddies Program.

Patton then contacted Cindy Kowal, executive director of Communities in Schools of Cumberland County, about the program.

Communities in Schools is a non-profit organization that helps prevent students from dropping out of school. The Backpack Buddies Program collects food through donations and distributes it to school children on Fridays so they can have it over the weekend.

Brentwood was designated as a school that could use the unit’s support.

“We have an overwhelming sense of appreciation, knowing that 500 pounds of food was coming to help these children and how much it means in the lives of these children,” said Anne McFadyen, the school’s principal.

“Our children truly benefit from everything that the Soldiers are doing in support of us and the children,” said McFadyen.

Once the school was selected, the unit went into action and started collecting food.

“We started the food drive a month ago,” said Patton.

The unit made it a competition to see who could get the most food and one Soldier stood out — Pfc. Kenneth Millar, a satellite communications systems operator maintainer for Co. C, HHB, XVIII Abn. Corps, donated $100 worth of food to the food drive.

“I saw this as an opportunity to give back to the community,” said Millar.

When the collection of food was over, the unit discovered that Millar was once a recipient of such community support while he was in school.

“I would get reduced lunches and free snacks,” said Millar.  “It really brought back memories from childhood and seeing the children’s faces made my day.”

The Soldiers arrived to the school with two large containers full of everything from can goods to rice. They were greeted by members of the Brentwood’s faculty and several students who assisted them by carrying the items into the school.

“The Soldiers may not realize it but they are incredible role models to our kids,” said Kowal. “They are giving, just by showing up, and they are teaching lessons that will take hold and have a positive effect on these kids down the road.”