1 of 2
Photo courtesy of Jill Spero
Prince of Peace Catholic Church volunteers pause for a photo after packing the first “Weekender Backpacks” for food-insecure students at Simmons Middle School in Hoover. Ruth Ollie, far right, brought this project of mercy to the church during Lent.
2 of 2
Courtesy of Jill Spero
POP’s “Weekender Backpacks” committee members pictured l to r: Marsha Hernandez, Ruth Ollie, Donna Dottley, Evelyn P. Chester, Nancy McGreevy.
Prince of Peace Catholic Church is pairing up with Hoover Helps to provide food to Simmons Middle School students on the weekends. Other area churches and the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center have worked with Hoover Helps to support the elementary schools, and Prince of Peace is the first church to adopt a middle school as part of the program, according to a press release.
The church is participating in the “Weekender Backpack” program, which provides bags of food to students who are food insecure on the weekend, meaning they do not have consistent access to food outside of school.
Prince of Peace parishioner Ruth Ollie presented the program to the church’s Minus One ministry group, a support and social group for those who have lost a loved one. Ollie heard about Hoover Helps' Weekender Backpacks while volunteering at the food bank at Green Valley Baptist and wanted to bring the idea back to Prince of Peace.
The group and Pastor John Fallon supported participating in the Weekender Backpack program, and the group started raising money.
"I was thrilled that they wanted to support it, and of course the entire parish has supported it," Ollie said. "I can't walk on the proeprty without people saying, 'This is wonderful. ... We're so glad we're doing this.'"
In a few weeks, they raised $30,000 for the project.
"I was breathless. I couldn't believe it," Ollie said. "We had one special collection at church, and we collected over $19,000 in that one collection and then the money keeps coming in."
Members of the Minus One group met with Hoover Target store manager Alyson Snow to create a plan for the project, including purchases of shelf-stable and fresh foods as well as delivery of the food. The Hoover Target is also donating plastic bags for each week’s outreach.
"Target has just been wonderful," Ollie said. "They have bent over backwards to do whatever they can."
The Minus One ministry and youth group students first decorated and filled bags on March 10, and the bags were delivered to Simmons the next day. Second graders have also gotten involved by helping decorate and fill bags. One week, the students each took a brown paper bag to decorate with kind words such as "God love you," "We love you" or "Have a good weekend," and their family filled the bags. Ollie said having those 40 extra sacks was a wonderful addition.
The church is continually accepting cash, check and online donations for the project. Online donations can be made at https://membership.faithdirect.net/enroll/AL611/9, or cash or checks payable to Prince of Peace with Weekender Backpacks noted will be accepted.