Transforming Lives Through Back Pack Blessings: A Journey of Compassion
In the heart of Mt. Bethel Church’s missions efforts lies a remarkable partnership that began with a life-changing mission trip to Kenya 14 years ago. During a recent interview, Ben Hornsby, one of the founders of Mt. Bethel’s missions partner, Back Pack Blessings, shared the captivating story of how this organization came to exist. His words unveil the profound impact of this ministry on the lives of children in need.
A Life-Altering Mission Trip
Ben Hornsby recounts the pivotal moment that set the stage for Back Pack Blessings. “Probably 14 years ago, a group of us went on a mission trip to Kenya, and it was so overwhelming, so powerful, and life-changing. I’ve found that God can really get my attention when I am uncomfortable – when I rely on Him and Him alone.” This journey to Kenya launched a transformative journey closer to home.
The Birth of Back Pack Blessings
Back home, in conversations with Gaylyn Kelly, Jody Ray, and other church leaders, an idea was set in motion to begin a ministry to serve the children in need around our community. Ben’s passion for the idea was evident, but he recognized that he needed help to turn this vision into reality. Enter Tony Palermo, who shared Ben’s enthusiasm after being on the same life-changing mission trip to Kenya. Together, they became the driving force behind the creation of Back Pack Blessings.
Turning Vision into Reality
With Tony’s assistance and Stacy Ronai, a young woman with a background in the food industry, volunteering her support, Back Pack Blessings was born. Ben emphasizes how Stacy’s involvement has been crucial to the mission, “Stacy is the heart and soul of the ministry. Her love for the children knows no bounds.”
Back Pack Blessings’ mission aims to reach children who qualify for the federal Free and Reduced-Price Meal Program and have little to no food on the weekends. Through volunteer participation, financial donations, and the use of a nearby home owned by Mt. Bethel, Back Pack Blessings provides backpacks filled with child-friendly foods each Friday to students who qualify.
The team received guidance from Ben’s daughter-in-law, a school teacher in Cobb County, who identified schools in dire need. They decided to adopt Fair Oaks, a Title I school with high levels of poverty and hunger. The first year, Back Pack Blessings started with 137 students in the entire fourth grade at Fair Oaks. Ben recalls the touching moment when the children realized they would be returning with more support: “The kids came out of their classroom and they looked at us and they had these smiles on their faces and they said, ‘You came back, you came back.’”
Growing and Thriving
Since its inception in 2011, Back Pack Blessings has seen remarkable growth over the years because of the dedicated community volunteers and support from church partners like Mt. Bethel. Today, the ministry serves approximately 500 students each week.
The Weekly Ritual
Every Wednesday morning, a food truck arrives at Mt. Bethel, and a team of dedicated individuals unloads and organizes the supplies. Thursdays are dedicated to staging and packing, involving a team of volunteers. Finally, on Fridays, the team delivers the backpacks filled with food to Fair Oaks, where the real magic happens.
Changing Lives, One Back Pack at a Time
The impact of Back Pack Blessings extends far beyond providing food to hungry children. Ben recalls a heartwarming story of a student who, despite having only this one pack for the weekend, chose to give away his backpack to a homeless woman. This selfless act exemplifies the profound difference this ministry makes in the lives of both children and volunteers.
If you’re inspired by the incredible work of Back Pack Blessings and want to make a difference, there are various ways to get involved. Ben shares that they welcome volunteers for food preparation, staging, and delivery. Additionally, they aim to expand their reach to other schools in need, making your participation even more impactful.
Back Pack Blessings has become a beacon of hope for the children it serves. The Back Pack Blessings Team’s dedication and partnership with Mt. Bethel Church demonstrate that compassion knows no boundaries. As Back Pack Blessings continues to grow, it continues to bring glory to God by nourishing the bodies and spirits of those in need.
From October 22-29, 2023, we invite you to be “On Mission” and make a lasting impact in the lives of others while deepening your discipleship. Discover the incredible power of giving, praying, sending, and going as we explore the profound effects these actions have on our community and beyond. At On Mission 2023, we’ll bring our ministry partners from around the world and our community to Mt. Bethel, offering insights into the life God wants us to pursue. Learn more at mtbethel.org/mw23.