Who Is My Neighbor (Backpack Ministry)

“My name is Sydney Cisco and I am part of  the backpack ministry. Here are three things that I like about it: I like to do things for other people, I like to see friends, and meet new friends. I really like to do the backpack ministry.”
— Sydney Cisco
“My name is Caleb Cisco and I participate in the backpack ministry.  One of my favorite parts is that I enjoy making new friends and inviting friends I already have.  Another part that I enjoy is helping to feed people who don’t have enough food.  I also like that there aren’t rules that you have to fill this many bags. You just do what needs to be done, like opening boxes of food to be bagged.  ALL THAT TOGETHER EQUALS FUN WHILE HELPING PEOPLE IN NEED!!!”
— Caleb Cisco

If you’re unfamiliar with this exceptional ministry, let me give you the basics.  Calvary partners with Parkside Elementary School (chosen based upon that school’s need) to provide bags of food for the weekends to children who depend on school lunches for nutrition.  We offer this to all children who receive free or reduced lunches, then parents decide whether they’d like to opt into receiving this food.  Every week, a group of volunteers from Calvary sorted out and packed enough sacks of food for 100 children.  The majority of food came from the Midwest Food Bank right here in Normal, but often, the congregation was asked to supplement because we were missing important items.

Erin Estes’ small group packed meals one week and these are her reflections:  “I liked that our children got to work alongside of us and we got to do something special as a small group.  Often there are areas that are available for adults to be in ministry, but they aren’t kid friendly.  Betty Crites (the coordinator of this ministry) was so great with our kids and made this an excellent experience for all of us.  It was nice to see the older children helping the younger children as they counted items to go in the bags.”  Darin Gully was also a part of this group and said that it was a great experience.  Darin said, “….especially getting the kids involved…..I think the kids had more fun than anyone else.  It’s important that the children understand that they also get to fulfill the ministry of Jesus at an early age.  I think it’s great to teach them that they are vital in the reaching out to help others for the Kingdom.”

We could not do this ministry without the dedication of Betty Crites who makes it all happen.  You might have read Betty’s thank you to the congregation elsewhere, but it’s worth thanking you again!  “Our last Backpack delivery for this school year was May 19. Calvary has made it possible for us to fill and deliver 3,200 bags of food to children at Parkside Elementary.  Thank you for the support you have given to this ministry.  Even though a great deal of food comes from Midwest Food Bank, the people of Calvary have added to the food supply abundantly every week.  Your consistent prayers and generous gifts of supplies and money have been so appreciated.  A special thanks to Mike Donald and Larry Gamblin for transporting food from Midwest each month and helping with the unloading.  Thanks to all of you who delivered the bins to Parkside, those who helped sort and pack and unload the truck, open boxes, flatten boxes, and count supplies. Thank you Calvary!”

Although this ministry has completed its work for this school year, we’ll be back at it in the fall.  If you’d like to participate, please contact the church office and we’ll get you set up to be ready for action in August.  We especially need folks who can carry some totes of filled food sacks from one of Calvary’s downstairs classrooms to someone’s car who will deliver the food to Parkside.

These are our neighbors and we’re thrilled to partner with them in the name of Jesus Christ.

Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: A Light to My Path

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC