ENGLEWOOD — When word spread of the backpack program at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Englewood United Methodist Church also wanted to get involved with its own program.
St. David’s is in its second year of sending backpacks full of food home on weekends with Englewood Elementary School students who are on free or reduced lunch.
With guidance from St. David’s, EUMC now is sponsoring a backpack program at the Foundations, the preschool it operates within church grounds.
‘We’re trying to make a difference,’ said Susan Kizis, backpack program coordinator at EUMC. ‘For a small community, I think we’re doing quite well.’
The backpack program is beneficial to church families, said Kristen Fisher, director of Foundations preschool.
‘A lot of them are struggling now and they’ve been grateful,’ Fisher said. ‘Some of them are just too proud to ask for help. They feel this is a safe place for them. They know if we’re offering it to them that it’s OK for them to take it and they don’t have to feel anxious over it.’
Pat Knox, outreach minister at St. David’s, is working with other churches to teach those interested, including EUMC, how to implement a backpack program.
‘We’ve been networking and the different churches know that we’ve been doing it, so they call us to find out what the process is,’ Knox said. ‘We had one in North Port who called. We had Sunnybrook Alliance (Church call). They’re trying to get started down there.’
EUMC is helping 24 children at the Foundations. It costs $89 to sponsor a child, which provides a variety of meals over the weekend when school is not in session.
‘We have so many families who are in desperate situations,’ Knox said. ‘They’re having breakfast and lunch at school, and so, (come) the weekend, the pickings are pretty slim. That’s the problem. So the schools are doing as much as they possibly can, and that’s why the churches have been taking up on the backpack program.’
EUMC’s backpack program started Sept. 20, and distributes every two weeks.
‘You’re serving children who really don’t have too many opportunities with the families that they live in,’ said Linda Garcia, a volunteer. ‘So naturally, I was drawn toward the children.’
For more information, go to http://www.englewoodumc.org, or call 941-474-5588.