CommonCall: San Marcos church blessing backpacks

Young volunteers at First Baptist Church in San Marcos seek sponsors willing to provide funds to fill a backpack with school supplies. (Photo / Courtesy of Melinda Hall)

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SAN MARCOS—First Baptist Church in San Marcos wants to bless local students and teachers—in every way possible.

Melinda Hall, minister to preschool and children at First Baptist, saw an idea on social media a couple of years ago she wanted to bring to her congregation.

Another children’s minister had suggested blessing backpacks of students and teachers immediately prior to the beginning of the school year.

Prayers for students and teachers

Members of First Baptist Church in San Marcos delivered 50 filled backpacks to Travis Elementary School and 46 to Mendez Elementary School. (Photo / Courtesy of Melinda Hall)

First Baptist produced laminated tags for the backpacks—one for students and the other for educators. One side of each tag includes affirmation the backpack “has been blessed by a congregation that loves and supports” students and teachers. A prayer is printed on the reverse side.

The prayer for students says: “Dear Lord, open my eyes to see new friends. Open my ears to hear my teachers. Open my mind to learn new things. Open my heart to love others like you do. I want to shine your light in my school. Amen.”

The prayer for educators says: “Dear Lord, enable me to teach with wisdom, for I help shape the mind. Equip me to teach with truth, for I help shape the conscience. Encourage me to teach with vision, for I help shape the future. Empower me to teach with love, for I help shape the world. Amen.”

The blessing of the backpacks proved so popular, teachers who had no other contact with the congregation began to ask to be included.

Fill backpacks with school supplies

This year, First Baptist also blessed students in need at two low-income schools in San Marcos with the gift of backpacks and school supplies.

Hall initially contacted the principal at Travis Elementary, a predominantly Hispanic school where eight out of 10 students qualify for free or reduced lunches based on family income. The principal agreed to identify students who would benefit from backpacks filled with a dozen of the most essential school supplies.

By purchasing 48 backpacks wholesale and buying the school supplies on sale at a discount store, Hall was able to keep the cost per filled backpack under $15.

She set up a table at First Baptist promoting the program and asked members to sponsor a student by purchasing a backpack volunteers would fill with supplies. Members immediately snapped up sponsorships and asked if they could help additional students.

Backpacks sponsored, stuffed and delivered

Hall purchased an additional 24 backpacks, which sold quickly. So, she purchased 24 more backpacks, and members also sponsored them.

“Our people are good about giving,” she said.

She contacted the principal at Mendez Elementary, where 84 percent of the students are Hispanic and 86 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches. The principal eagerly agreed to identify students who would benefit from the backpacks.

Volunteers deliver filled backpacks to a San Marcos elementary school. (Photo / Courtesy of Melina Hall)

Volunteers stuffed the backpacks during an intergenerational missions emphasis weekend at First Baptist Church.

“We delivered 50 backpacks to Travis and 46 to Mendez Elementary on the rainiest day in August,” Hall recalled, noting she had received thank you notes from both schools.

Before the students received the backpacks, members of First Baptist Church joined in praying for those students.

“This year, we not only blessed our own kids’ backpacks, but also all the ones we sponsored,” Hall said. “Our people really got behind it.”

This is part of an ongoing series about how churches can support public education and the common good. Substantive coverage of significant issues facing Texas Baptists is made possible in part by a grant from the Prichard Family Foundation.

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