Garland Jones, 17, was one of 10 young people honored by Build-A-Bear Workshop and the Jefferson Awards for Public Service’s 10th birthday celebration of “Huggable Heroes.” The 8- through 18-year-olds were recognized during a three-day venture and banquet in St. Louis and each received $10,000 for educational and mentoring scholarships and to go toward charities of their choice.
Jones, who lives in Marietta and is a rising senior at The King’s Academy in Woodstock, founded Back-N-Pack last July after overhearing a group of Clarkston Elementary teachers talk about what their community could do to fight child hunger.
“I liked the mission,” Jones said. “I also thought, why not take it to a larger scale?”
With that go-getter attitude, Jones decided to find target areas throughout metro Atlanta where he could collect food and hygiene products for refugee families, kicked fundraising into full throttle and has organized a number of food drives.
“Fundraising happens at local schools, churches and businesses in Atlanta and at King’s Academy and we distribute throughout Atlanta and through many of those same schools, churches and businesses,” he said.
Jones and his volunteers stuff backpacks with the donated goods and, to date, Back-N-Pack has raised $4,500 and provided 15,000 pounds of food to help more than 2,000 refugees, who represent 60 countries and speak more than 52 languages.
“Being able to give back to the city and community that I grew up in means a lot to me,” he said. “This should be a big part of anyone that grows up in a city, and you should have a heart for your city.”
Jones’s mother, Carlia Jones, nominated the teenager for the honor.
“I am just extremely proud of him,” she said. “Garland has the heart to really serve people in his community and he enjoys working with youth in that capacity. … I really like the mission.”
Her husband and Garland Jones’ father, Eddie Jones, shared the same sentiment about their only child.
“We’re proud of him for having the initiative to want to help other people and for someone else to recognize it,” he said.
Garland Jones said he was honored, yet surprised, by his mother’s nomination and Build-A-Bear’s monetary donation.
“I’m just a kid from Marietta, Ga., and I’m being recognized among all these other people from all over the U.S.A.,” Jones said.
Between Wednesday and Friday, Garland Jones participated in a photo shoot where he got to post with the two, one-of-a-kind Build-A-Bear animals he created, attended workshops where he learned how to generate more funds for his project and celebrated with a banquet Friday night where he received the public service award, which was founded in 1972.
To learn more about Garland Jones’s charity, or to make a donation, visit crownedforvictory.org.