Earlier this summer, Kay Bennett received a phone call that left her with some exciting news.
Bennett is the executive director of Baptist Friendship House, a Send Relief ministry center in the heart of New Orleans. Each year, her organization hosts a back-to-school bash, in which they celebrate the beginning of a new school year and give backpacks filled with school supplies to about 600 children living in poverty.
But plans for this year’s back-to-school event suddenly multiplied when Bennett got a call from Send Relief, a ministry of the North American Mission Board, offering to donate 5,000 backpacks to the cause.
“I remember getting off the phone with [Send Relief] when I told them, ‘Yes, I can pack 5,000 backpacks,'” Bennett said in an interview with Facts & Trends. “And then I thought, ‘Oh no. I’ve lost my mind. I’ve got a month to do this.'”
Bennett was at first overwhelmed by the way the project had grown; it seemed like more than her organization could accomplish before the back-to-school bash scheduled for Saturday, July 14. But she didn’t need to worry, she soon learned, as she saw churches and other organizations donate time, money and resources to what they dubbed their “5,000 Backpacks Project.”
On July 13, Bennett and her staff were joined by 151 volunteers, who helped pack 5,000 backpacks. Two thousand of these were given to children at the back-to-school bash held the following day, while 1,500 were donated to homeless individuals and the remaining 1,500 were designated for survivors of human trafficking.
“They’re helping me to build relationships with folks, simply using a backpack,” Bennett said.
Backpacks can be both practical and powerful tools for ministry, according to Send Relief.
“The relational connection you make as you hand a backpack full of food to a hungry child or a bag filled with toiletries and essentials to an abused woman starting over can last a lifetime,” the Send Relief website says.
As such, Send Relief encourages ministries like Baptist Friendship House to give backpacks filled with supplies to the vulnerable members of their communities — whether they’re students, children in foster care, newly arrived refugees, or the survivors of human trafficking.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Helen Gibson