CINCINNATI (June 2, 2023) — You don’t often see a Jeep Grand Cherokee so crammed with school backpacks that there’s barely room for the driver. But such was the case one day last summer when Jennifer Saylor pulled up to United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
She had driven from her office at First Financial Bank in Springdale with items she and her colleagues collected for United Way’s Backpacks for Success project.
“At First Financial, we always talk about being a positive influence to help our clients and communities thrive,” said Saylor, who is the bank’s Enterprise Banking Services Manager, VP.
“That was our approach for these students. We wanted them to have the tools and resources they needed to be successful.”
Saylor’s team is already preparing for this year’s Backpacks for Success. They set a high bar last year, doubling their goal by collecting 101 backpacks full of supplies for elementary, middle and high school students in Hamilton County. It was quite the payload.
“My husband kept saying, ‘Would you like me to bring my truck?’ I said, ‘No, I think they’ll fit in the Jeep.’”
First Financial associates at the Greensburg, Indiana, operations center also took part last year; they collected 27 backpacks for students in Indiana’s Decatur County.
Such efforts helped United Way collect 1,800 filled backpacks – 300 above the 2022 goal. They were distributed at three community events.
“Knowing the backpacks were going to students in local schools in the communities we serve was very exciting,” Saylor said. Attached to each backpack was a tag with a message from First Financial: "Have a great school year! Always remember you are special!!"
Internal team building is a nice side benefit of the project, Saylor said. Participating associates can earn perks such as additional work-from-home days. And in true bank fashion, associates “audit” all backpacks to ensure they contain everything on the supplies checklist.
For 2023, United Way has expanded Backpacks for Success to reach more families in Hamilton County as well as Northern Kentucky. The goal: collect 2,500 backpacks filled with school supplies and distribute them to students so they begin the school year prepared to learn.
Saylor’s team also upped its goal: 125 backpacks. Too many to haul in her Jeep.
“I already told my husband, ‘For sure, we’ll need the truck.’”