A Blessing to Families in Need
Homelessness and poverty have become much more visible and prevalent problems in suburban areas like northern metro Atlanta. In 2015, Forsyth County, one of Georgia’s wealthier counties as measured by per capita income, conducted its first ever survey of the homeless population.
Backpacks of Love (BofL) serves homeless and at-risk children and their families in Forsyth and north Fulton counties. They work through social workers in Fulton and Forsyth County schools, who identify students who don’t have enough food. BofL sponsors, largely in area churches and businesses, fill backpacks with food items, which are then delivered to schools for distribution. They deliver backpacks of food and other needed items to eighteen different schools (elementary, middle and high schools) in north Fulton and Forsyth Counties. Since its inception in 2011, BofL has delivered over 235,000 pounds of food and other essentials in approximately 11,750 backpacks.
One of the high school social workers they work with recently wrote:
Backpacks of Love has been an incredible blessing to our families in need. The families we serve through BofL express their gratefulness for the help, and we get thank you calls and notes throughout the year from parents. I firmly believe that our BofL program helps kids focus in school and ultimately helps many of them to make it to graduation. Thank you; thank you; thank you!
BofL operates entirely through the stewardship of its sponsors and volunteer labor. They have no paid staff. Over 250 individual sponsors serve by filling backpacks of food or by making other donations. Seven different churches, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, Johns Creek Baptist Church, Alpharetta First United Methodist Church, Roswell Missionary Baptist Church and Roswell Assembly of God have an organized effort within their churches to assemble sponsors and donations. Additionally, businesses and civic groups such as Morrow Family Medicine, Star Asset Security, Best Deal Movers, Travelers Insurance, Proactive Payroll, North Georgia Promotions, Bank of North Georgia, A Stronger Workplace, the Bond and Specialty Insurance division of Travelers Corp. (Alpharetta), the Johns Creek Rotary Club, the South Forsyth Rotary Club and the Milton/Windward Rotary Club have donated funds and/or organized collections of food, backpacks and other crucial items.
BofL was named by Mimosa Elementary School as its Partner of the Year in 2012, and has also received a grant for backpack purchases from the Piney Grove Middle School PTSA. Manning Oaks Elementary selected BofL as its Partner of the Year in 2013, as did Elkins Pointe Middle School in 2014. BofL was selected as Taylor Road Middle School’s Partner of the Year for 2016, and BofL Founder, John Ray, was selected as 2015’s Small Business Partner in Education of the Year by the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.