The Rev. Chris Swims and the people at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Carbondale once again have translated compassion into action and watched their efforts, and their joy, multiply.
For more than a decade, the senior pastor and his congregation have been providing backpacks and school supplies to as many students as possible at the start of the school year.
"We started doing it for the kids in the church, but we soon recognized a need in the community," Rev. Swims said. "Jesus was always sensitive to the needs of the people. We follow in his footsteps. We want to bless as many people as possible."
So, the church started holding an annu- al back-to-school bash church every August, inviting all who would come and giving away more and more backpacks and school supplies each year. And the good word spread.
This year, one family drove an hour and a-half from Edwardsville just to outfit their children for school and soak up some good, old-fashioned Christian encouragement, something Rev. Swims and his flock have in abundance.
"Our goal this year was to give away one thousand backpacks," Rev. Swims. "And thanks to all of our donors and volunteers, we were able to do that. Our back-to-school bash was held on August 4, but we had some backpacks left, so we contacted Carbondale Elementary and asked permission to pass them out."
That was Tuesday and it couldn't have gone better, according to Rev. Swims, who was still beaming on Wednesday.
"This was our first time working with the schools, and it was an awesome experience," he said. "We had lots of volunteers and lots of really happy children. Really, it's the smiles on their faces that bring the joy to our hearts."
Rev. Swims and his band of volunteers are very busy every August preparing and passing out backpacks, but they also do campus outreach activities at John A. Logan and at SIU, "giving out supplies and mingling with the students, providing some support and encouragement."
And before the month is done, they'll be holding a "recap meeting" about this year's efforts and starting to plan for next year's, writing letters to individuals and organizations, asking for donations and volunteers.
If you would like more information, or want to volunteer or donate, contact Rev. Swims at firstname.lastname@example.org.