With Old St. Nick’s favorite holiday closing in quick, kids around the world are once again asking themselves the ever-present, perpetually insatiable question: What do I want for Christmas this year?
While some letters to Santa are crammed full of wishes for iPods and Barbie Dream Houses, other requests are more humble: clothes, warm blankets, food.
It was requests like these that moved Ashley Fuller and Laurie Gist to develop the Power Packs Ministry, a program designed to help kids get the supplies they need – and not just during the holidays.
“Basically, we provide weekend meals for students in need at Pilot Point Elementary and the intermediate school,” Gist said. “We give them enough food to cover their meals for the entire weekend.”
Fuller and Gist came up with the idea one night after Bible study. They decided they wanted to serve the community in a way that nobody else was. They knew that similar meal assistance programs were already in place to help students in Aubrey and Collinsville, but not in Pilot Point.
In the past, students at PPES received assistance from the National Food Bank, but that program stopped almost three years ago. Since then, the school has been on its own. That is until September, when Gist and Fuller came into the picture.
Every Thursday, the two close friends go on a Sam’s run to buy food supplies for students. They spend Friday mornings packing the supplies into individual packages with other donated food items, then they run the Power Packs to the elementary and intermediate schools.
Gist and Fuller keep track of which students require assistance and race through the halls with arms overflowing, sneaking into lockers, tucking the bags of food into backpacks, and channeling Mister Santa Claus himself.
“We give food to kids who have been recognized by teachers as needing it,” Fuller said. “We also get goodie bags, stickers and fun things to put in there, so a lot of times it’s more than just food.”
The program is pretty simple. After being recognized by a teacher, a student will be referred to the Power Packs Ministry and sent home with a bag of food and a note explaining the program to parents. Parents are able to opt out if they feel that their child doesn’t need additional help by filling out a form included in the pack.
At the minimum, each pack includes: Two breakfast items, four entrees, four juice pouches or water bottles, one fruit item, two pudding cups and three or four additional snacks such as crackers and granola bars.
Corey Haughton, the STEAM Lab adviser at PPES, said the program has been a huge help to students in need. She even prefers the assistance of the Power Packs Ministry to that of the National Food Bank.
“This is better for us,” Haughton said. “We cut out the middle man. The food is better, they include treats and we have better communication.”
“Plus she loves us,” Gist said, laughing. “We entertain her.”
Right now, about 25 students at PPES receive assistance. The program runs off of donations and is headquartered at Midway Church in Pilot Point. Dollar amounts can be donated to the Power Packs Ministry through Midway and on the Power Packs Facebook page.
Food and supplies donations are also accepted at Midway Church as well as the Pilot Point Sonic. In the past, supplies have even been dropped off on Gist’s porch, and the two women said they can pick up donations if needed.
Despite the demanding nature of the job, Gist and Fuller enjoy running the ministry. For them, working together is a huge blessing.
“We’re super close friends,” Gist said. “Getting to work with Ashley is a bonus. If I had to do it with someone else, we wouldn’t have nearly as much fun.”