“Friends Helping Friends” History
After attending a workshop at the Kroc Center in March of 2011 where Reggie McNeal, author of the book Missional Renaissance spoke, three members of the Silverton United Methodist Church congregation were inspired to research the local need for a mission he had mentioned. He spoke of a weekend backpack project in the southern United States. One of the three women contacted the local schools, one contacted Silverton Area Community Aid or SACA, and one did internet research. They discovered that this week-end backpack program, where students take home a backpack of food for the week-end, was happening all over Oregon. They also discovered there was a need for such a program for children living in food insecure families in the Silverton area. Because the end of the school year was approaching, the superintendent wanted to wait and learn more about it for the following school year.
Now filled with enthusiasm to do something immediately rather than wait through the summer, the three women came up with an idea based on a comment made by Dixon Bledsoe, the SACA director. He had mentioned one of his goals was to educate his clients on healthy snack options. So in May of 2011 a partnership was formed between SACA and the Silverton United Methodist Church. The church would package healthy snack sacks to deliver each week to SACA. Fortunately, a nutritionist in the congregation was able to offer advice on portion size and shelf stable snack choices. The congregation was alerted to this new mission and donations began to appear. The first day of sack filling was on June 16, 2011 where 9 helpers, including 2 children, packed 82 paper lunch sacks that had been decorated by the congregation during the coffee hour after the church service the previous Sunday. By the end of that first year, 2,095 sacks had been delivered to SACA. Each of those sacks contained four snack items: a protein, two fruits, and a carbohydrate. To bring an even bigger smile to the children receiving the snacks, a special prize has always been included. Among some of these prizes have been stickers, bubbles, chalk, crayons, Playdough, and small books printed from internet downloads. Some sacks are designated for teens and include a personal care item such as shampoo or dental products. The program has remained strong since then with over 29, 000 snack sacks delivered to the local food bank. The volunteers at SACA are always so happy to see the snack sacks delivered each week. They remind us what a wonderful mission this is; the children are so happy to choose a sack off the shelf, and the parents are so appreciative.
One of the original goals of the snack sack mission was to bring smiles to the faces of food insecure children. SUMC likes to think that 29,000 snack sacks equals 29,000 smiles, and that is priceless.