SACO---What began as a project to help local foster children in need of school supplies has ballooned into an initiative that is assisting hundreds of students as far away as Kenya.
“We started this project with one audience in mind, but we soon discovered there were other groups that could benefit from our work,” said Bonnie Buechs, chairperson of the Social Justice & Peace Commission at Good Shepherd Parish (Most Holy Trinity Church, Saco; St. Joseph Church, Biddeford; St. Margaret Church, Old Orchard Beach; and St. Philip Church, Lyman).
The backpack initiative collects new, unisex backpacks and school supplies for distribution to area foster children and all children in need in first grade through fifth grade. Parishioners and community members are encouraged to drop off the materials at any of the parish’s four churches in boxes marked “Backpacks and Supplies.”
In 2016, over 80 filled backpacks were distributed to state foster care social workers, Lyman Elementary School, and York County Shelter. Miscellaneous extra supplies were given to Dayton Elementary.
Last year, the response and growth of the initiative left organizers amazed. Over 180 backpacks were filled.
“Around 50 went to state foster care social workers; over 50 went to schools in Lyman and Dayton, St. James School in Biddeford, and Sweetser School in Saco; and 15 went to Seeds of Hope,” said Buechs.
That left over 50 filled backpacks, and the chance to help children half a world away.
“Those remaining backpacks will go to a school in Kenya this summer,” said Buechs. “A member of the Social Justice & Peace Commission volunteers there every year and she expressed that there is a real need. The commission’s responsibility to the parish is to provide opportunities for parishioners to practice social justice. What better way than to share resources with those in need.”
The collection for this year’s backpacks is now underway at the four Good Shepherd Parish churches, with distribution set for late August. All are encouraged to participate by donating:
- plastic pencil boxes with lids no larger than 6" x 9";
- pencil containers with a zip up pouch;
- pencils and erasers;
- glue sticks;
- boxes of 24 Crayola crayons, markers, colored pencils, and/or dry erase markers;
- pocket folders;
- spiral notebooks;
- 1/2 inch three-ring binders;
- headphones/earbuds for computers/iPads;
- and pens for grades 3-5.
The addresses for the churches serving as donation sites are: Most Holy Trinity Church (271 Main Street, Saco), St. Joseph Church (178 Elm Street, Biddeford), St. Margaret Church (6 Saco Avenue, Old Orchard Beach), and St. Philip Church (404 Goodwins Mill Road, Lyman).
If you are interested in learning more about the Social Justice & Peace Commission at Good Shepherd Parish, the group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Most Holy Trinity Church.
For more information about the backpack initiative, contact Good Shepherd Parish at (207) 282-3321.