Magazines 2024 Mar - Apr Supporting families with back-to-school backpacks

Supporting families with back-to-school backpacks

25 February 2024

Creative ways to love our neighbours

Set the Captives Free Outreach Centre Canada gives away backpacks to Free Outreach Centre Canada in Gatineau. Photo: Set the Captives Free Outreach Centre Canada


Set the Captives Free Outreach Centre Canada, Gatineau


Connecting with and supporting single-parent families in Old Gatineau


Backpack giveaways in August for back-to school season


$10 per backpack

If we’re able to touch the neighbourhood, we can touch the city.

Pastor Nahomie Acelin explains:

The idea for giving out backpacks during back-to-school season comes from a personal place. I grew up in a single-parent home in Montreal and we had to depend on supports to get by as a family. It has been a focus of our church family to exist as a solution to the challenges in Gatineau. We are located in Old Gatineau where many families are considered part of the low-income tax bracket. Our church began this program with me, my husband Ronald and our children taking time to prepare bags. Now our team of three has grown to 12 people. Interestingly enough, some of the first families to join our church plant came from the community centre we have been supporting. We have been fortunate to strike a partnership that allows us to donate backpacks for $10 per bag. So far it has been the generosity of our church, their families and friends that has funded the initiative.

The backpack giveaway occurs on two weekends in August. The planning process begins in the early part of summer. We collect money toward the backpacks and they are organized on Friday by our volunteers before the giveaway on Saturday. Church members have taken on the project as their own. We meet at the church early in the morning. We gather the school bags and pray over them. The community centre is two blocks away from us, so we walk over and the centre tells us which families will be coming out for the giveaway. It ends up being a full day of 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Our youth are involved with five youth giving out the bags and a few adults supervising. They get to know the other children, help them pick out a colour and choose a bag. We believe it’s modelling for them the need to give back. Over the last year we’ve given away 105 school bags.

For a church thinking about doing something like this, my advice is you need to know the demographics of your community – get connected with organizations already doing the work. By partnering with other organizations, it opens other doors for your church to serve. Work smart, not hard. Also do not burn members out with too many outreaches. A quarterly outreach works best. If we’re able to touch the neighbourhood, we can touch the city. Then we can impact the nation for good.

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