What began a few years ago as a project of the Watsonville First United Methodist has turned into a backpack giveaway Sunday sponsored by the Las Santa Beclaras Circuit that includes Aptos UMC, Boulder Creek UMC, Gilroy UMC, Hollister UMC, Morgan Hill UMC, and the UMC of Santa Cruz.
Pastor Robin Mathews-Johnson from Watsonville First UMC describes the project:
We gave out about 80 plus backpacks filled with school supplies in August on backpack Sunday last year to children, youth, and some adults in Watsonville. The whole thing started a number of years ago when someone donated two backpacks to the church, so we raffled them off, but realized that everyone in our community needed them, not just those two. Also, for years kids and youth in the neighborhood would come by the church office and ask to borrow a pencil, or some paper to do their homework. They'd also beg me to give them a binder, etc. We found moms who couldn't afford to buy a pencil and paper.
We finally decided to do something.
Last year for the first time we also gave out just the supplies because some of the older kids were able to reuse their old backpacks. We gave out another 50 or so over the year, for those who ask for them, through a retired school teacher who is a reading specialist at a local elementary school. She finds kids all year who don't have backpacks or the supplies they need for school. Through these families, this year we also gave some filled backpacks to a family in Mexico. The total is 125 to date this year to date.
We originally worked with a wonderful retired teacher from Aptos UMC who got the requirements for supplies from the school district. There is a long list, including composition notebooks, colored markers, pens in blue or black, highlighters, erasers, pencil bags or boxes, floppy folders, pencils, sharpeners, rulers, glue sticks, loose leaf paper in two sizes, post-it notes, binders, binder tabs, and protractors. We also include little hand sanitizers, and protractors. This specified list is why we don't ask for supplies from folks, only cash and donated time. Our backpacks are specifically not red or blue, the local gang colors which are prohibited in our local schools.
This year we're ordering new black, gray and purple backpacks as our original purchase of $4,000 worth of backpacks is finally depleted!
Last year, and this year, we have a young 18 year old who is in charge of it before she goes off to college this fall.
The blessing and give-away will take place on Sunday, August 5, at Watsonville First UMC located at 229 Stanford Street, Watsonville. For more information, or questions, call (831) 724-4434.
To read the litany for the blessing of the backpacks, click here. To view a flyer, click here.