CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — A pastor’s challenge to the members of his church, has resulted in a donation of more than $3,000 to the Shenendehowa School District’s Bountiful Backpack Program.
The $3,171 donation from Starpoint Church, 410 21st Century Drive, was presented to the school district earlier this year.
The funds originated with a challenge from pastor Dr. Roscoe Lilly to the church membership. Lilly asked his congregation to donate $15 every month in recognition of the church’s 15th anniversary.
“We’ve been known for some time for giving more manpower for community service, and we wanted to expand that presence,” Lilly said.
Giving an extra $15 a month toward a donation was just one of the things that Lilly challenged church members to do throughout their yearlong anniversary celebration. Other initiatives included praying for 15 minutes a day, inviting 15 people to church and serving a cumulative 15,000 hours in the community.
In November, Starpoint donated $2,855.00 to Cheryl’s Lodge; CAPTAIN Community Human Services’ Community Outreach Center in Halfmoon Heights. The church also helps the children at the Lodge by providing Hunger Boxes for school breaks, like the recent midwinter break, and by supplying weekend meals for the summer food program.
Thanks to Lilly’s challenge, a donation from the church was also made to the Schenectady City Mission.
“The heartbeat of our church is to share and show God’s love,” Lilly said. “We don’t want our members to just attend church on Sunday.”
The Shen program sends backpacks home with children in need on Fridays that are filled with food items. The packs are filled with breakfast and lunch items like cereal, oatmeal, granola bars, mac and cheese, tuna fish and soup; juice boxes, gift cards for milk, loaves of bread, fresh fruits, and snacks. Some schools send home treats. At Gowana Middle School birthdays are recognized with cake mixes for birthday cakes.
The program, which is funded entirely by donations, started slowly in individual elementary schools where the need was spotted first. It spread rapidly to all the grade schools, the middle schools and eventually the high school.
“There are 270 kids in the program now,” said Bountiful Backpack Parent Coordinator Beth Miles. “It’s supposed to be one backpack for one student, but we know the backpacks are going where there are a couple more kids.”
The food is purchased by the program from the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Latham, which, in addition to its other duties, handles the food for school backpack programs across the region.
“When the program began, we would have one parent from each school go to the food bank once a week and pick up that school’s food items,” Miles said. “Since the program came to the attention of [Shen superintendent] Dr. Robinson we have a district food service truck that goes over to the Food Bank once a week for the supplies and a mini-warehouse on campus.”
Shen’s Director of Policy and Community Development, Rebecca Carman, said the program is available to every student across the district no matter what school they attend. She noted that the program is serving 260 students each week this year, and the numbers are going up.
“It’s important we sustain this program, and this is how we do it, by fundraising and through donations like the one from Starpoint Church,” she said. “If students’ basic needs are not met they cannot learn. And it’s not just food. It’s clothing too. We want them to come to school and feel they are part of the environment, part of the culture, and be here to learn.”
Pastor Lilly is aware of the program’s impact and knows full well that the generous will be blessed.
“I hope we make a difference in the community,” he said. “It’s not just about God’s love but also to show faith.”