South Lake Community Ministries home of Buses n’ Backpacks is often asked for a story. A story of a child we’ve helped. People say a story is a very compelling way to move the community into helping a cause and we believe they are right. When we see a man on the side of the street it becomes a habit to walk by and not help, and the more we pass by, the easier it becomes to ignore him. But if you stop and hear his story, often it then compels you to move on his behalf. We think that’s why people are always asking us to put a face to one of our Buses n’ Backpacks stories. But as of now we’ve made a decision to say no.
We’ll tell true stories but we use fake names. Imagine if you were the beautiful girl whose parents abandoned her. Would you want your story in the paper if you were discarded so that your parents could selfishly move to Georgia without you? Would you want everyone to know that no matter how good you were it wasn’t enough for your parents and that they left you anyway? We don’t think it would matter to this girl that we all knew she was a straight A student. We don’t think it would matter to her that we knew she sat first chair in the band. It would certainly move us yet, probably embarrass her due to the abandonment.
Nevertheless some loving neighbors were moved, even though they did not know her name. Neighbors attended a meeting to discuss how she could be helped without uprooting her during her senior year. Neighbors bought food for her to cook in a microwave. Another neighbor took that food to her teacher. A teacher discreetly gave her a backpack of food every weekend. Do we need her name? Of course not. It is good to know that she graduated from high school; a family took her in and helped her retain her job. And last we heard she just completed her first year of college.
We will tell stories that have pictures but we will make their faces fuzzy. Pictures sell stories. You only have to pass through the check out lane of your local groceries store to know that this is true. Millions are spent every year getting the right picture to move the reader. So yes, Buses n’ Backpacks should have a picture. Boy would the money flow.
We could show a mom dying on the couch while hospice tends to her; highlighting a boy in the background looking into his empty cupboard. It’s true, we have this story, and it’s one of our own. The single mom had no family and just wanted to spend her last 6 months of life with the boy who was the only constant good thing in her life for the past 8 years. Hospice moved in and did what they do best.
But what happens to a child like this during the weekends or a long holiday such as Christmas, when no school is cooking for him? Hospice is not supposed to cook for the kid, care for him, or buy him Christmas presents. So, God put it on his neighbor’s heart to call Buses n’ Backpacks and a volunteer collected food that the boy could cook for himself every weekend. Another volunteer bought Christmas presents for him, and still another wrapped them and signed the mother’s name. Another wrote a letter to the mom, describing all the presents that were bought for her son on her behalf; things that she wished she could get, but her body would not cooperate. We could have taken a picture of their last Christmas together, but to us that is private and not up for display. So no picture today.
Why do our backpacks look like all of the other ones on campus? We are sure you are catching on by now. Children are important to us at Buses n’ Backpacks. They are too important for us to take away their dignity, which gives them a little bit of hope of a better day. So listen to our stories, but know you will never hear a real name or see their precious faces. We plan on sticking with our less compelling Fake Names and Fuzzy Faces.
Today you could join this effort to ensure children in crisis will not go hungry. For twenty dollars a month your sponsored child will receive 290 meals this year. This makes you their hero. You can make sure a mom with cancer gets her last Christmas with her child or a girl graduates. Without you we cannot move forward into more stories. Consider choosing us as your Charity of Choice.
We started in 2005 and currently feed 500 children a week through 17 public schools in Lake County Fl and are a 501c3 non profit. We have over 200 volunteers. We meet regularly with other programs in order to establish best practices, partner together and mentor other groups. We have also shared and helped to start 5 other programs outside of our county.