Wagonload of love
Volunteers from Fairland UMC prepare to deliver backpacks filled with food for elementary students. From left are Norma Kraus, Glenda Sparkman, Joe Kraus, Pastor Carole Minter, Kim Anderson, and Jane Wilson.
The delivery vehicle was a child’s red wagon when the Backpack Program in Fairland was launched by First UMC in the 2008-09 school year.
The ministry has become a larger, community-wide effort, and the food requires transport by car or pickup truck.
The program has been "an energizer for our congregation," said Pastor Carole Minter.
"Our congregation has been generous with time and resources. We sincerely feel it is a privilege to serve the children and families of this area. The looks on the youngsters’ faces tell it all."
First Church for several years hosted the Boys and Girls Club of Fairland, providing leadership and space for that after-school program. The congregation again was ready to step up to start the Backpack Program for elementary students who need healthy weekend snacks.
Church volunteers on Fridays initially delivered 12 backpacks of nonperishable food items to the school, which sent them home with children identified as needing food support. In its second year, 23 students were served. Rev. Minter expects the need to increase this school year.
"We try to get a month’s worth (of food) at once. Anytime we need funds, immediately they come in," Minter said.
Instead of backpacks, sacks have proven more practical, explained program director Glenda Sparkman. Weekly, two volunteers fill each sack with about a dozen goods, and another volunteer makes the delivery. School personnel distribute the sacks.
Sparkman said the monthly cost was $340 last school year. Businesses, clubs, and other churches have given funds. An electric co-op awarded the program a $2,500 grant.