PROGRESO, Texas (ABP) — Elementary school children in Progreso, Texas, are going back to school this year with a heavy burden, thanks to a church in San Antonio.
In less than seven months, members of the Fellowship at Westcreek collected more than 525 backpacks and delivered them to the South Texas community as part of a recent missions project sponsored by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas and Buckner Children and Family Services.
The church, which is less than a year old, averages between 50 and 60 people in weekly attendance. But members passionately embraced the challenge of providing a backpack loaded with school supplies for every elementary child in Progreso, according to Pastor Ken Noles.
He and his wife initially presented the idea of collecting 100 backpacks. But a visit to Progreso early in the process revealed that about 500 children attended Progreso Elementary School.
Armed with that information, Noles and his wife, Brandie, returned to the congregation and upped the goal to five times the number of people who attend. Church member Julie White took the lead in the project.
As momentum for “Operation Backpack” picked up, Brandie Noles said, children took collection boxes to their schools, church members canvassed their neighborhoods door-to-door, and Boy Scouts distributed flyers seeking donations of backpacks, school supplies and money. The value of each backpack and supplies was estimated at about $10.
The project served as a catalyst for the new congregation, the pastor said. “It galvanized us. It brought us together around a common goal, and everyone began to mobilize around this particular thing. It drew us together as a fellowship. It also turned our focus outward, because we were seeking input and support from people way outside our church.”
Noles added that Operation Backpack was not an end in itself. “We kind of see it as a means to an end, because what we're doing is providing an inlet into that home to sometime down the road go in and share with them why we did this.”
— Photo available from Associated Baptist Press