Heavenly Rest's Modern Backpack Drive

Heavenly Rest's Modern Backpack Drive

August 16, 2017
By: 
Anne-Marie Witchger

One of the Church of the Heavenly Rest’s parish commitments is to the nourishment of body, mind, and soul. Over the last year, we have partnered with Harlem Grown, an innovative urban farming organization, to enhance the lives of young people through hands-on food education and mentorship. Harlem Grown works with children inside and outside of the classroom to develop healthy habits, ambitious life goals, and strong ties to their communities.

Our parishioners have worked with the staff and children of Harlem Grown on a variety of projects, including helping on Saturday "farm days" this summer. This partnership has helped to nourish the lives of young people in Harlem, but it has also nourished us. As a parish, we have been filled by the opportunity to engage in this meaningful work.

Episcopal Heavenly Rest EducationA few weeks ago, some of our staff and parishioners met with Harlem Grown staff to explore ways to deepen our partnership. One idea that emerged following the meeting was a back-to-school backpack drive for Harlem Grown’s summer campers, all of whom are on free or reduced lunch. We committed to donating 45 backpacks (one for each camper) full of quality school supplies. Harlem Grown determined that each backpack would cost about $50 if most of the supplies were purchased through Amazon. We set up an Amazon Wish List and encouraged our parishioners to donate a $50 gift card to sponsor one child’s back-to-school needs. Our goal was to fund 45 backpacks in two weeks.

Looking for more information on Backpack Blessings and other education resources? Click here.

We made Sunday morning announcements and sent out a few emails to the entire parish with links to the Amazon Wish List asking for donations. The response was tremendous. In the first week, we received about 20 Amazon gift cards. By the middle of the second week, we had received 28. We sent out one final email to parishioners who had volunteered with our Outreach programs in the past. Two days later we had exceeded our goal, ahead of schedule. It was a remarkable show of care and energy from our parishioners. 

We handed over the thick stack of Amazon gift cards to Harlem Grown’s executive director yesterday. “You have no idea how far this will go,” he said. What many of us take for granted as an annual Staples run is just not possible for most of Harlem Grown's kids. We were thankful to be able to participate in this meaningful project and are excited to explore new and creative ways to partner with Harlem Grown in the future.

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