Teens ensure success of churches’ backpack project

By Kaitlyn Naples

Staff Writer

Two teenagers took the reins of a project that has been going on for 11 years that helps provide backpacks and school supplies to local students in need.

Jack Murray, 15, of Bristol, and Megan Albert, 16 of Southington, raised funds from the parishioners at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Bristol to help buy school supplies and backpacks for children who are less fortunate than they are. Not only were backpacks distributed to several local organizations, but 60 backpacks were sent to Moore, Okla., which suffered widespread damage from a tornado on May 20 that killed 24 people.

“We always send the backpacks to kids who can’t afford back to school supplies, but this year we also wanted to help with disaster relief,” Murray said, adding that this is his second year helping run the backpack project.

The project has been going on for the past 11 years, and has been a collaboration between Gloria Dei Lutheran, and St. Andrew Lutheran in Bristol. The project began with Gloria Dei parishioner Tracy Carlson, who said the teens who volunteer are involved in “a great learning experience.”

She said when the teens get involved in the project, “they begin to take ownership” and they realize that they are helping other students, like them, who are less fortunate, Carlson said.

The teens raised money and then bought backpacks and supplies like notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, and more. All of the backpacks were for grades ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, for boys and girls. In addition to Oklahoma, backpacks were given to the Plainville Community Food Pantry, Bristol Social Services, Zion Lutheran Church soup kitchen, and an organization in Hartford called Our Piece of the Pie.

Murray and Albert aren’t new to community service.

Murray said he volunteers at local soup kitchens, and even sees his peers going through the line sometimes. “It makes me realize that not everyone is as fortunate as I am,” Murray said, adding he likes the backpack project and being able to help other students in need in his community.

Albert said she has gone on mission trips with her parish, and said working on the backpack project is “a good way for me to help get other kids ready for the first day of school.”

The two have been helping with the backpack project since they were young, and said they enjoy doing community service projects and plan to continue volunteering in the future.

Albert said she would encourage teens her age to find an organization that interests them, and help out when they can. Murray said when a disaster happens, people will be sympathetic and want to help out, so he suggests finding a local organization that benefits victims of disasters, to volunteer for.

The project was given donations by parishioners, and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

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