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Backpacks for all

Ministry equips struggling families for a new school year

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).

Two years ago, Ken Landis, pastor at Mountain Ridge Regional Church (BIC) in Dillsburg, Pa., was approached by some friends dreaming up an idea. Excitement hummed in their voices as they shared a vision of providing aid and hope for local, struggling families during back-to-school time.

“I only heard every third word,” explains Ken. “The last thing I needed was something else to do.” As the conversation continued, however, something caught his attention. “‘Imagine,’” they said, “‘no one would get credit for it.’” The fire was lit, and the Youth Impact Project was born.

Having completed its sophomore year, the Youth Impact Project is a community event, driven by more than 20 local churches, 20 businesses, school district leaders, civic organizations, and over 400 volunteers. The event is open all day one Saturday at the end of summer.

In addition to a free lunch, each family in attendance receives free school supplies, books, shoes, haircuts, a bike helmet, a family portrait, a backpack, and a bag of groceries.

In 2014, the event served more than 2,300 people. This year, it provided supplies and services for over 2,800. Along with financial donations from businesses and private donors, the project received and gave away more than 2,000 backpacks, 3,000 books, and 4,000 pairs of new shoes this year.

Ken is overwhelmed at the collective response to this ministry. “For me, the most exciting part is watching all the churches working and serving together,” he says. “We are serving together to love the community as the bigger Church.”

Just two years ago, this ministry was nothing more than a vision in several friends’ minds. Today, hundreds of families have been able to experience, in a tangible way, the tremendous love and hope of Jesus Christ.

This article originally appeared in the fall/winter 2015 issue of In Part magazine.

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