BY WANDA SIMPSON
Whitehouse Free Methodist Church in Smithfield, Pennsylvania, started a new ministry program in 2014 when members of the congregation began talking about their experience working in local elementary schools. Many of the children would come to school hungry during the week, and there was a real concern for them not being fed over the weekends.
Surrounding school districts had implemented a backpack program that sent home kid-friendly food items to make sure the kids were eating over the weekend. Pastor Kenny Rockwell contacted the local school district and found a significant need in the community.
Currently we support two schools, and what started out as 12 backpacks grew during this school year to 48. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. The children look forward to the weekends because they love their goody bags. They are happy. We also discovered that some of the children were sharing their food with younger siblings, which touched our hearts greatly. So we added six bags for the preschoolers, and now we have 54.
In addition to the food ministry, we extend invitations to attend children’s ministry programs such as skating parties, VBS and Easter egg hunts. We have had children attend and love the opportunity to minister to the families. A committed band of workers shop, pack and deliver food every week. It is a great time of fellowship when we come together each Wednesday to pack the bags. Prayers are said while packing the backpacks and while shopping for the supplies. Our faithful delivery squad makes sure the backpacks make it to the schools.
It is estimated that Whitehouse spends $400 per week to supply weekend food items for local children. The congregation supports the ministry through donations of cash and food supplies. We have received two separate $500 donations from churches outside of the Free Methodist Church and have had many inquiries about financially supporting this program.
It is our objective to continue growing this ministry and supplying for additional students and schools as the need arises to include school supplies and winter outerwear. Whitehouse maintains a food bank for the community and hopes to be able to provide our backpack to kids through the summer on a monthly basis as well. We love this opportunity to care for kids in our community and appreciate your kind donations to support this effort.
If you would like to donate to this ministry, we have established a GoFundMe account for contributions. Please visit our page at gofund.me/whfmcbackpacks.