Dorlisa Shumate, left, and Deanna Hardemion welcome contributors to the Audubon Alumni Backpack Drive. (David E. Fossett)

Giving back is more than a phrase for alumni of Audubon Middle School and Gifted Magnet in L.A.’s Leimert Park neighborhood.

In response to a request to help current students, several graduates united to donate nearly 600 backpacks filled with supplies, which was enough to provide a goody-packed satchel to each of school’s 500 pupils.

The collection took place on July 31, with Deanna Hardemion, Audubon principal, and Dorlisa Shumate, pupil services and attendance counselor, accepting the contributions.  About 62 alumni provided gifts and each package included an encouraging note from the donor wishing the student a successful 2021-2022 school year.

“That’s the great thing about Audubon alumni – when you call, they come,” said Shumate, who attended Audubon from 1995-98.  “Thanks to our phenomenal alumni, our students will have everything they’ll need to get started on the first day of school. They don’t have to go to the store to buy anything. We’ll already have it here for them!”

In addition, Hardemion said students will participate in a raffle to win signature athletic shoes donated by NBA Brooklyn Nets star James Harden, also an Audubon alumni, who funded renovations to the school’s gymnasium a few years ago.

Alissa Hurns, left, and Nietra Humphrey collected donations from the classes of 1988 and 1989. (Courtesy photo)

Another alumni contributor was Nicole Vick, who arranged for L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell to share a video message to the young people where Mitchell recalled the benefits of her education at Audubon. Also, Nietra Humphrey and Alissa Hurns persuaded fellow 1988 and 1989 graduates to give 144 backpacks and supplies.

Hurns said she was motivated to assist because of the values she was taught at Audubon by the teachers and principals.  “Audubon is where we began to formulate our paths. It’s important to all of us to help our kids make it and if starting their year off with a backpack and school supplies [will] get them started off right, then we’re all for it,” she declared.

Alumni Paul Porter and D’Andre Lampkin delivered 100 backpacks each, courtesy of their nonprofits, Avenues of Life and Lampkin Foundation, respectively. Daymond Johnson and Beno Bryant furnished 50 backpacks each and Brent Burton provided 36 backpacks on behalf of the African American Firefighter Museum.  Several staff and local residents donated hundreds of items for the students as well.

Alumnus D’andre Lampkin donated 100 backpacks courtesy of the Lampkin Foundation. (Courtesy photo)

Clarifying why he contributed, Burton said, “I participated because I have always believed in giving back to my old elementary and junior high school.  I attended Audubon from 1977-1980 and I had a great experience there.  Participating and supporting Dorslisa Shumate’s efforts there is a great way for me to support!”

Lampkin considered his donation as a fulfillment of his foundation’s “vision for communities that are strong, fully engaged, and resilient; where all stakeholders are self-reliant and fully supported by sustainable ingenuity and grassroots efforts.”

Paul Porter, also an alumnus, provided 100 backpacks from his nonprofit, Avenues of Life. (Courtesy photo)

Elaborating further, Lampkin explained, “As an alumni of Audubon Junior High School, I thought it was important to demonstrate our vision by encouraging community stakeholders and fellow alumni to participate in the backpack drive. I want to thank our community of donors, volunteers, and supporters. Whether it was providing funds for the cost of supplies, contributing school materials, or donating time to put materials together, this truly was a grassroots effort to encourage Audubon students’ academic success.”

Shumate, who was overwhelmed and grateful for the donations, expressed with a big smile, “We just want to thank all of the alumni, the community members and everybody that supported this effort. Our students will definitely be appreciative of all of the support that was given.”

Hardimion added that the backpacks will be a pleasant bonus for the youngsters, who will be returning to classes after nearly a year of remote learning. “I’m glad we’re starting back the school year in-person. I’m looking forward to seeing the students again,” she said.