While many of us spend the weekends at cookouts, going out to eat or ordering in, there are many children in the community that go hungry on the weekends. Recognizing the need to help food-insecure students, South Shore United Methodist Church (SSUMC) stepped into action in 2011 with its Backpacks on a Mission outreach program.

Connie Bishop, coordinator for Backpacks on a Mission, joined the church in 2012 and immediately became involved in this important effort.

“I had always worked with the senior population and wanted to expand my horizons, therefore, children,” said Bishop. “What an eye opener. First of all, I could not believe that there were children going hungry over weekends. Secondly, this was in my neighborhood. I knew that I had to help in any way that I could.”

The backpacks are distributed to students from low-income families at Corr, Dawson, Summerfield Crossings and Summerfield Elementary Schools. The students take the backpacks home filled with nonperishable food over the weekend so they will have something to eat.

Backpacks on a Mission began in the 2011-2012 school year with backpacks sent home filled with food to 25 students. Today, the backpacks are sent home each weekend to 169 students. Year-to-date, the church has sent home 1,068 backpacks. Items supplied in the backpacks vary from peanut butter and jelly, instant oatmeal, canned fruit and ravioli, among other items.

“Our funding for Backpacks on a Mission comes from grants, donations and contributions from our congregation and community,” said Bishop. “These contributions, however, are not always sufficient to cover the cost of providing food.”

In order to raise money for this mission, SSUMC had planned its first annual Backpacks on a Mission Walk-a-Thon, but the event was recently postponed.

Visit www.southshoreumc.com/online-giving to keep up to date with the event when it is rescheduled.

If you are interested in helping host a food drive at your workplace, volunteering or donating money towards the purchase of food and supplies, please contact Connie Bishop at 677-9482. South Shore United Methodist Church is located at 11525 Big Bend Rd. in Riverview.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.