(L-R) Denorial Keys, asst. manager, Charlie Moran, store manager, Gayla Ross, Angie Gates, Beverly Anderson, dept. manager. Walmart issued a grant to assist Stone Point Mission, founded by Ross and Gates, in its Blessings in a Backpack ministry. Enterprise photo by Jody O’Hara.
A pair of local women have taken it upon themselves to recognize and serve a mission field right here in Stone County.
Angie Gates and Gayla Ross each had experience serving on missions to other places and wanted to see that effort expended closer to home.
"We both have always had missions in our heart," Gates said. "I want to help people and this seemed like a good way to offer opportunities for different people who felt the same way we do."
The pair have chosen a partnership with Blessings in a Backpack for their first major effort.
Blessings in a Backpack is a national organization which is currently providing weekend nutrition to more than 88,000 elementary school children in 950 schools in 46 states and Washington D.C.
The mission statement of the organization is as follows:
"Blessings in a Backpack mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry."
The group helps to provide snacks and foodstuffs which students receive on Friday and take home to insure they receive proper nutrition over the weekend.
In Stone County, Stone Point Mission is feeding 65 students at Perkinston and Stone elementary schools this school year.
"We saw the program and said, 'Why can't we do this in Stone County?' and the answer was, 'We can,'" Gates said.
They have received donations from Walmart, Bank of Wiggins, local churches and private individuals.
It is estimated $100 will feed one student per weekend.
Blessings in a Backpack's website claims that better test scores, improved reading skills, positive behavior, improved health, and increased attendance have all been attributed to consistent nutrition, such as what the organization helps provide.
The program is just the start to what Ross and Gates hope to turn into a local service movement.
"We want to make a difference and we are looking for people who have a passion for making a difference in the same sort of way.," Gates said.
The pair have already reached out to individuals in need around the county and are seeking others who may benefit from a local service group.
Anyone interested in offering their help or support can find Stone Point Mission on Facebook.
Those who would like to assist with Blessings in a Backpack can contribute in several ways.
Each weekly backpack stuffing includes six-to-seven food items including two entrees, two snacks, and two breakfast items. Menu items are child-friendly and shelf sustainable. Menu items include ravoli, soup, oatmeal, granola bars, cereal, and fruit cups. There are no peanut items.
Checks: All checks should be made payable to Blessings in a Backpack with PERKINSTON/STONE ELEMENTARY on the memo line and you will receive a charitable gift receipt. Checks should be mailed directly to the bank: Blessings in a Backpack Lockbox PO Box 950291 Louisville, KY 40295-0291
Cash: These donations can be forwarded to our office via a money order or a check from the Program Coordinator with the donor’s contact information along with the amount donated. When the donor’s contact information is included, you will receive a charitable gift receipt.
Credit Cards: Those who wish to donate via credit card can go to the Blessings’ website homepage http://www.blessingsinabackpack.org and click on “Donate Now”.