Florida church gives away backpacks, supplies ahead of new school year
Fri, 08/12/2022 – 15:36
Fort Pierce First Church of the Nazarene gave away 470 backpacks and school supplies on 6 August during a back-to-school event organized by the church. It was the second annual giveaway event for the Florida church.
Robin Campbell, who leads Fort Pierce’s drive-thru food pantry ministry, gathered the sponsors and received a grant through the local children’s services council. Along with leading the food pantry, Campbell works as a reading tutor in the schools alongside Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I love children, and I love families,” Campbell said. “I know the best way for us to get into the families is how much we care for their children.”
It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that Campbell began to feel the itch to help get her church outside of its “four walls.” So the drive-thru food pantry ministry was born. In 18 months, they had helped over 1200 different families.
When the schools opened up again last school year, she felt like it would be a big help to those families to hold a backpack and school supply drive to giveaway to the families that had been utilizing their pantry services.
“If we can’t get them to come to church and learn about Jesus, let’s take Jesus out to them,” Campbell said.
Lead Pastor Steve Carr said that the Fort Pierce Community had been hit hard economically in the last few years. The church had been feeling some of the effects of it as well.
When the pandemic started, they got to the point where there was a regular food distribution and the community’s response was overwhelming. The church has just around 50 active members, yet they were serving upwards of 70 families at each of their giveaways.
Carr said that while it would be easy to get down about all the negative things, seeing the church respond to the needs really helped change their perspective.
“It would be so easy to get down,” Carr said. “But seeing the joy and enthusiasm of our workers, it changes your perspective on what is actually happening, and you realize God is moving.”
While working in the schools as a reading tutor, Campbell has heard her students discuss whether or not their parents can afford to meet essential needs. It’s part of what sparked her passion to have her church start with a backpack giveaway.
Campbell began to round up sponsors, helping earn the grant they received to buy backpacks as well as gathering vendors and sponsors for the event. They put fliers in the food containers in their drive-thru pantry for weeks leading up to the event, telling them to make sure to bring their children so they can pick out their own supplies.
Their first event gave away 312 backpacks. Last weekend, they gave away 470 and had 170 families come to the church and interact with members and volunteers as well as other community services.
Through both of these events and the food pantry, Campbell noted that she has seen that the opportunity to help meet the spiritual needs of these families is coming up more often. While it’s taken some time to get there, Campbell knows it was necessary to work.
“I think that it’s just looking at them and seeing that the harvest is ready,” Campbell said. “But sometimes before you can get to their spiritual needs, you have to get to their physical needs.”