A shrill whistle pierces the warm summer air, signaling to volunteers from Menlo Church that one among them has found the 1 millionth kit. As everyone looks toward where the sound originated, 7-year-old Caroline is smiling from ear to ear and runs over to hug her mother, Nancy, amid the claps and cheers.
Caroline excitedly clutches the orange backpack, a SchoolTools kit, and adds school supplies and a note of encouragement for the recipient — a child in need in her local community, the San Francisco Bay Area.
“It feels good, and it means a lot,” Caroline says after assembling the 1 millionth kit. SchoolTools kits provide the opportunity for children in the U.S. to engage in learning and help ease the burden many parents feel when they cannot provide for their children; they free up family resources for other essentials such as food, medicine, and utilities.
That day, 220 volunteers from Menlo Church assembled 2,000 SchoolTools kits, including the 1 millionth kit assembled by Caroline, and another 4,000 Promise Packs that World Vision will distribute in the Dominican Republic. It is one of many “Serve Your City” opportunities hosted by Menlo Church.
“The ability to connect people with people, serve together, and understand the greater good of why we’re doing this is really what matters,” says Nancy Rosa, a Menlo Church attender for 28 years.
The partnership between Menlo Church and World Vision is rich in history. The church has partnered with World Vision for 13 years, assembling more than 50,000 kits — more than any other World Vision church partner — that have impacted 1.7 million people around the world. Not only was Menlo Church the site of the 1 millionth kit event on July 28, it was also the site of the first World Vision kit event in 2005.
“This is just the tipping point,” says Nancy, who was instrumental in the launch of the first kit event. “I think this is just going to explode. I can’t imagine we won’t keep going. I want to keep going until I can’t build them anymore.”
Numerous World Vision staff echoed that sentiment.
“This isn’t the end,” says Karen Sendelback, World Vision’s national director of partner engagement. “We feel this is a chance to say we’ve reached this incredible milestone, and what we want to do now is focus on getting to the 2 millionth kit. There are still children out there that need these school supplies. There are still children who need Promise Packs.”
Easing the back-to-school burden with SchoolTools kits
Two weeks later, the 1 millionth kit is now at Familia Cristiana Verbo, another local church, in the hands of 9-year-old Estefani Alvarado — right in time for her to start fourth grade.
“I feel so happy because she packed it for me,” Estefani says. When Estefani opened the backpack, she found Caroline’s note and was excited to see a pack of paper, which she sometimes runs out of. She expressed feeling overwhelmed by the generosity.
“Not all the kids get what I have right now,” Estefani says.
Her father was also grateful for the school supplies and the honor of his daughter receiving the 1 millionth kit. “I feel happy and privileged,” says Nehemias Alvarado, 31. The Alvarado family has been attending Familia Cristiana Verbo for nearly 12 years.
Pastor Orlando Cardona, 56, explains that the church’s annual backpack distribution not only helps families in need, but it also gives their pastoral staff a way to approach families in their community.
“When I hand them a backpack, it gives me the opportunity to show them the love of God and be able to converse with them,” Orlando says. “Then through that, it allows us to tell them about all the programs we have for youth, for adults. And ultimately, we’ve seen how through the help we give them, they’ve gotten closer to the church in search of God.”
His wife, 57-year-old Patty, adds that the physical provision of school supplies is especially important.
“When children hear about the love of God but also receive something from the love of God, they feel more in their hearts,” Patty says. “This community has much need, and we’re happy to be a small part of their lives.”
The staff at Familia Cristiana Verbo are incredibly thankful for the generosity of Menlo Church and many other churches and organizations who have assembled World Vision kits.
“Thank you for taking the time and going the extra mile for people you don’t even know,” says Associate Pastor Ever Turcious, 41. “Thank you so much. God bless you.”