Do you think of October as the most wonderful time of the year? Pat Ingram does. For her, it is packing and collection season for Christmas Backpacks.
Ingram, missions and ministry consultant with Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union, is one of the state coordinators for Christmas Backpacks, a ministry of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
The concept is simple. New backpacks are purchased and filled with gift items for children and teens. Then those backpacks are collected and distributed through a partnership with the Mississippi River Ministry and through partnerships with church planters in Alabama and other states.
Last year, Alabama Baptists packed 14,336 backpacks. More than 40,000 people heard the gospel and 417 people made professions of faith during distribution events. The goal for 2023 is to collect at least 14,500 backpacks, but Ingram is hoping for more than 15,000. She hopes even more people will hear the gospel through the simple gift of a backpack this Christmas season.
But if you want to get involved, it’s time to take action. Here are some essential tips:
- Be new and include only new items.
- Have a color-coded band attached to the top. (Click here for information on how to order supplies.)
- Have a copy of “The Christmas Story” inside the backpack.
The color-coded bands representing the age group and gender, along with “The Christmas Story,” are obtained from Alabama WMU.
What to pack
Fill each backpack with new gifts based on the age and gender you choose. The ages are 2–3, 4–7, 8–10, 11–14 and 15–17. Things to pack include:
- Toys: small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, small musical instruments, yo-yos, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, card games, travel board games, frisbee, puzzles, etc.
- Art supplies: crayons, colored pencils, markers, stamps and ink pads, craft paper, construction paper, stickers, coloring and picture books, etc.
- Hygiene items: toothbrush and toothpaste, boxed bar soap in a plastic bag, hairbrush, comb, washcloth, ponytail holders, hair clips, etc.
- Other items: Children’s or teens’ Bible; hard candy (no chocolate); mints; age-appropriate Christian books; pop-top cans of food; clothing such as T-shirts, socks, gloves, hats, etc.
For older children, ages 11–17, consider the following:
- Girls: lip gloss, costume jewelry, fashion scarves and journals.
- Boys: basketball, soccer ball, Nerf football, etc.
Please do not pack any perishable foods or foods containing nuts, knives or items that can be easily crushed or broken.
Collection points and information
When the backpacks are completed, the next step is to take them to one of 13 collection sites, which include nine associational offices, three churches and the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Center in Prattville. To find the drop-off location for your area, contact person and drop-off times, see “Collections Points and Times” at AlabamaWMU.org/christmasbackpacks. The drop-off dates are Oct. 23–28. Volunteers also will be needed to help process and distribute orders for the ministry partners.
The Alabama WMU website has two videos to watch. One is a personal testimony by Davey Lyon, church planter and pastor of Imago Dei Church at the 45 in White Hall, and the other is with Ingram and Scotty Goldman, director of the office of global missions for Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.