Faith United Methodist launches new backpack project
A group of Faith United Methodist Church congregation members has been spending a little more time at church on Sunday mornings, but they don't seem to mind. In fact, they're actually quite glad to be there a little longer.
That's because they're busy helping out some of Farmington's children. More specifically, they're there to help provide a couple of meals for some of the community's most helpless victims of hunger - school-aged children.
For the past couple of weeks, the folks at Faith United Methodist have provided one bagged lunch and one backpack of food for some of the children enrolled in community education's Tiger Academy this summer. The children have been identified as coming from families in need, and receive the lunches every week.
The project came about for the simplest of reasons, Rev. Kevin Fox said. The congregation wanted to become better connected to the community, and decided they wanted to do a service project.
"We found that our congregation has a gift for gift-based ministry," Fox said. "We're filled with a lot of doers. You give the people of this congregation a task, and they'll do it wholeheartedly.
"And they love food," he added.
Fox asked around to find out what needs were going unmet in Farmington. He checked with the city. He checked with the school district. Along the way, he checked in with Farmington Elementary School principal Ben Januschka and learned there were kids in the district who could use some help with summer meals. During the school year, they receive meals at school, but they did not receive those services during the summer months.
Fox and his wife, Ildiko, worked up a plan. The bag lunches are made on Sundays after the morning service, then distributed on Mondays at the Tiger Academy program at Riverview Elementary School. On Thursdays, the children receive backpacks of food. They can take the backpacks home for the weekend, but return the backpacks when they get their bagged lunches on Mondays. Congregation volunteers meet on Wednesday nights to restock the backpacks for the next week.
"It's been a lot of fun. It's exciting to see people racing to the kitchen after church so they can get the bag lunches started," Fox said. "This is when the church is at its best. They're unified, they're excited about it. It gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction. The church is at its best when they're doing things like this."
The food is donated by the congregation, and some members have instead chosen to make financial donations. Ildiko Fox draws up a list of what kind of food, and how much, is needed, and members sign up to provide a specific number of specific items. For example, one family might donate seven boxes of macaroni and cheese, and another might provide seven apples or juice boxes. That way, every child gets the same packages, be it part of the bagged lunch or the filled backpack.
So far, only seven children are receiving the backpacks and lunches. However, Fox expects the number to increase as word gets out about the program. At least, he hopes it will.
"When you look at Farmington, you wouldn't really think of hunger as an issue, especially for children, but it's there," he said. "We're just doing this because we feel called to do something. If we can find a gift in our church and we can match it up with a need in our community, it's a win-win-win."
Any family in need of assistance for children through the backpack and bagged lunch program can call Fox at Faith United Methodist Church, 651-460-6110 or by email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.