A congregation in Illinois has given away hundreds of backpacks full of school supplies to students for the upcoming school year, with the hopeful expectation of giving away more later.
Whiteash Free Will Baptist Church of Marion handed out over 300 backpacks loaded with supplies on Saturday, with around 200 more backpacks likely to be given out at later dates.
Stephanie Lee, wife of Whiteash Senior Pastor Andy Lee, told The Christian Post that this was their fourth year of holding such a charity drive for their community.
“We know that how this school year will look is still a bit uncertain, but students will still need supplies, whether they are in the classroom or remote learning from home,” said Lee.
Unlike past years, the COVID-19 pandemic altered some of their plans, Lee noted, with the event being held outdoors instead of indoors and there being no free lunch or haircuts.
“We have received more requests from people who weren’t able to come to the event. We are coordinating to be able to fulfill those requests.”
Describing the event as more of a “drive through” gathering, Lee noted that the church had a team of volunteers who went about the waiting cars sharing the Gospel with families.
“Our greatest desire is for people to come to know Jesus and the hope He gives. We also want them to know that Whiteash Free Will Baptist Church cares about our community, and we strive to show the love of Christ in everything we do,” she said.
Supplies in the backpacks included crayons, markers, pencils, and scissors for younger students and binders, notebook paper, folders, pens and pencils for older students.
Whiteash’s charity to help students comes amid local, state, and national debates over the extent to which schools should reopen come the fall academic year.
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos garnered controversy when she stated that schools should reopen for in-person instruction by the fall or face budget cuts.
“American investment in education is a promise to students and their families. If schools aren't going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn't get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise,” said DeVos on Fox News Sunday.
“There's going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall … And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school by school or a case by case basis.”
Meanwhile, several school districts, including many in California where the COVID-19 infection rate is severe, have voted to hold online-only courses for the upcoming semester.
In a statement justifying their decision, Long Beach Unified School District quoted Dr. Barbara Ferrer, health officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Health.
“The virus currently rages on in our community, and we’ll need to continue to do our best to protect our children, our teachers and the many important people who make school function and who educate our children,” stated Ferrer.