Winnie Greenlee carries a food-filled backpack for St. John's Lutheran Church's backpack program last year. Now St. John's Lutheran is doing even more,

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St. John’s expands giving trend

Published 10:35am Friday, December 28, 2012

They started filling backpacks with food and taking them to their neighborhood school two years ago. Now they’re doing even more and have started a positive trend more organizations are following.

Those people are members of St. John’s Lutheran Church, who have been running a backpack program for about two years with volunteer support and help from the Salvation Army. The backpacks, now about 42 of them, filled with food, go to Sumner Elementary School every week where students can take them home when they are in need. The program displayed success, but now the church’s aim at helping the school has expanded to funding for eyeglasses, socks and underwear, too. Members have recognized the need.

“I guess our congregation has been very supportive of our neighborhood school, Sumner,” said Wendy Kusick, a 10-year St. John’s member and volunteer.

Kusick formerly taught at Sumner and is now a second-grade teacher at Neveln Elementary, and she has seen the need firsthand. And the need stretches further than just food.

“As teachers, we were just really thinking that parents are having trouble paying $200, $300 to take their children to go get eyeglasses,” Kusick said.

So in the past year, St. John’s has been taking donations from the congregation for eyeglasses. The congregation has increased its giving power and awareness of local problems, such as mentioned above. They answer the call for help.

“When the nurses at Sumner see they have a need for eyeglasses or if it’s someone who might have a hard time paying for them, she lets me know, and we work out a program for buying children eyeglasses,” Kusick said.

Furthermore, as a teacher, Kusick sees children come to school without socks or underwear — even in the dead of winter. Some of that may be poverty related, yet some is cultural. Regardless, St. John’s members are filling the need there, too.

“Getting them used to wearing the warm things that they need to stay safe and healthy takes a while, and sometimes parents just don’t have the resources,” Kusick said.

St. John’s help is even going toward book purchases, so students can take books home to improve their reading skills. That may not be a necessity, but it’s still important to teachers and church members.

Though Kusick now works at Neveln while her church gives to Sumner, she is happy to see that Queen of Angels is now sponsoring a backpack program at Neveln. Furthermore, a backpack program at Banfield Elementary has taken off, as well. It is as though several churches have adopted their own schools.

Perhaps more arrangements will arise in the future. One thing is for sure, though: St. John’s is not giving up on Sumner.

“We’re just excited to continue the backpack program and help Sumner in any way we can,” Kusick said.

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