I am very fortunate to be able to participate in Elmer’s Bag-It-Forward program, again, this year. If you have never participated, you’re going to love it; and for those of you who are veterans, it’s time once again, to break out the school supplies and show us your wonderful servant’s heart! The Bag-It-Forward program inspires people in communities all around the country to make a gift of school supplies to students or teachers who may not have the resources to acquire all that they need. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be a fabulous surprise and meet a genuine need. As a matter of fact, shopping at Walmart allowed me to purchase even more quality school supplies than I had originally expected, meaning even more students can be helped.
This year, Elmer’s has taken Bag-It Forward one step further. Their new app for smart phones, can be downloaded by scanning the QR code on the Back-to-School List Displays in most Walmart stores. I downloaded the Elmer’s 1st Day App to my phone, right there in the store. The app allows you to take pictures of your kids’ “first days” in school, each year and of other significant events in their lives and then organize them in a sort of digital photo journal, adding captions and notes to share the memories. For each picture uploaded through the app, Elmer’s will donate one product to the Children in Need Foundation. How awesome is that!??
I am so blessed, and forever changed, to have been able to spend the past week, serving children in New Orlean’s 3rd ward, through a ministry called Urban Impact. Our mission trip included 13 adults and 34 teenagers who set out with hearts to serve, only to find that we were the ones so immeasurably impacted. Urban Impact ‘s motto is ” Creating a neighborhood in New Orleans where kids can ride their bikes: to a home their family owns, to a safe place to gather, to a church that cares, and to schools of excellence.” Through the summer they run Day Camp, taking vans out into the projects and bringing children to the church, so they can enjoy Bible class, Arts and Crafts and Sports. In the summer evenings, Urban Impact goes to the kids; taking teams of volunteers into the parks in the various projects and running Challenge Circles (similar to AWANA Circle), playing games and just interacting with, and loving on, the kids in the neighborhoods. They also provide some after-school homework help programs during the school year and provide many other resources and helps in the community.
My week was filled with children who stole my heart as I interacted with them in classes and in the parks. Other members of our team served kids and their families by mowing, cleaning homes or cleaning up lots. Some of our guys played basketball with older teens and young adults in the projects, sharing sportsmanship and the love of Christ in their speech and conduct. From the moment I, and the rest of my team, entered a room or stepped onto a playground, children would rush up from all directions asking to “ride our neck”, braid our hair, paint our nails or play football or frisbee or just sit and talk to us. The unconditional love they showered on us was both thrilling and overwhelming. Looking around, their need was obvious, but they were happy and loving — desiring nothing more than any other child — attention, someone to listen to them, someone to play with them, someone to invest their time and to love them. Do you know how incredibly easy that was? The hardest part was hugging them good-bye at the end of the trip.
I believe God uses everything and I believe that the timing of my trip was not an accident. While I received so much, by being there, I was also overwhelmed with the desire to be able to do something that would have an impact or help out beyond the short time I was physically able to be there. The needs of the children are many, and the ministry that serves them relies on donations to provide for those needs. The Bag-it-Forward program kicking off this week, is perfect timing, and made up my mind to a way that I might be able to help out, even in a small way. I decided to make my Back-to-School kit and ship it to Urban Impact, to use in the Day Camp, after-school program or for individual kids that may have a specific need. Do you have any idea what a kick it was to go shopping, knowing where those school supplies were going?!! I’m so excited!
Who do you know that could benefit from even a small gift of school supplies? Can you picture the excitement and enthusiasm they would feel receiving it? I’ll bet we all know someone; and the cost to help is so small. I hope you will put together your own Bag-It-Forward Back to School kit and share with a student or teacher in need. Your act of kindness will not only bless them, but you as well! It’s easy to get involved. If you have questions, visit the Bag-It-Forward website, follow Elmer’s on Twitter or check them out out on Facebook. There is even a Bag-It-Forward Pinterest page to inspire you and get those creative ideas flowing!
Want to see more of my shopping experience and Bag-It-Forward project? Check out my album on Google +. I hope you’ll take up the challenge and then come back to tell me about your Bag-It-Forward experience!