Pittman Park UMC gives backpacks full of grace and love
By Kara Witherow, Editor
In August, Statesboro’s Pittman Park United Methodist Church began an outreach ministry focused on donating backpacks filled with common hygiene and household items to those who are homeless or otherwise in need.
Since then, more than 200 of their navy blue nylon-string backpacks, emblazoned with a tree logo and the words, “Amazing Grace,” have been filled and distributed.
“I was reading an article about homelessness one day and my thought was, ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’” said ministry organizer Mrs. Mickey Martin. “I was on Pinterest and saw where someone was making care bags for homeless people and thought that I could do that.”
What started out as a solo project quickly grew into a larger ministry. After a conversation with Pittman Park UMC senior pastor Rev. Bill Bagwell, the Amazing Grace Project, as it’s now known, became an official ministry of the church, a committee of six was formed, and it really got started.
Into each bag go basic toiletries – a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, a razor and comb – and other items like a washcloth; socks; tissues; an energy bar; a city map; dried fruit; a pen and pad of paper; a small first-aid kit; a bottle of water; and a thermal cup filled with packs of instant coffee, tea, creamer, and a to-go drink to mix with water.
The items in each bag were chosen based on research and requests from those who ask for financial and other types of assistance from local churches, Martin said, and are a very tangible way to help meet some of the needs of people in Statesboro and Bulloch County.
“When people come into our church, they often ask for things that we can’t always provide,” she said. “We really wanted to have something to give to someone in need so that they have something and know that people care.”
All items in the bags have been donated by generous individuals from Pittman Park UMC and six other local congregations. The backpacks are the only items that have to be purchased. Martin and other Amazing Grace Project committee members write letters each week to local businesses, elected officials, and community groups, asking for donations and raising awareness of the ministry. The response has been great, Martin said.
“Pittman Park is one of the most generous congregations you’ll ever find. I introduced it at church and we were just flooded with donations.”
The bags are distributed at six Statesboro-area churches, a women’s shelter, an outreach center, and local food banks. The Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department and Statesboro Police Department both recently began carrying bags in each patrol car, for deputies and officers to give out as needed.
Martin is grateful for the opportunity to be used by God and to live out Jesus’ call to serve others. She credits, in part, her Pittman Park UMC small-group ministry for helping her realize that calling.
“I go to a life group and we were talking one time about helping others, and several of the Bible verses really struck home. ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink …’ They just struck me and made me more grateful to God and more aware that the things that He has given me are not necessarily for me, but they are to go through me so He can get it to other people,” she said. “I feel like (God) is using me in a way that will help people understand and come to God, and it makes me feel good that God has a use for some of the things I can do.”