Farmington church finds a mission field at home

Salem Church backpacks
Salem United Church of Christ members fill backpacks with school supplies as part of the Fifth Sunday mission project. (contributed photo)

Members of Salem United Church of Christ in downtown Farmington last month continued a new tradition, packing backpacks with school supplies for Farmington area children in need.

While shopping for school supplies is an annual tradition for many families, Teresa Barrick, Homeless Liaison Assistant for the Farmington Public Schools, told church members that about 27 percent of the district’s 10,000 students live at or below the federal poverty level. Yearly homeless numbers range from 130 to more than 200 families unable to afford necessities like pencils, paper, and crayons.

Last year, church members donated school supplies, which were packed into backpacks as part of Salem’s Fifth Sunday Helping Hands and Hearts mission program. This year, Maureen Tyler, Salem’s coordinator of outreach to the school system, contacted Neighborhood House Client Support Specialist Loretta Zahn, who said the need for school supplies was greatest for elementary age students.

On July 31, members once again packed supplies – hundreds of pencils, pens, pencil boxes, markers, crayons, notebooks, folders, scissors, and glue sticks – for 48 students and delivered them to Neighborhood House.

“It is always important to reach out to your community, and here at Salem we are fortunate to have a strong mission and outreach program,” Tyler said in a press release. “It’s wonderful to know that so many children will have new backpacks and school supplies for the upcoming school year.”

The Fifth Sunday program, based on the “Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary” philosophy, involves the congregation in a local mission project during every month that contains five Sundays. Members have also packed hundreds of pasta dinner, breakfast and baking boxes for the Neighborhood House food pantry.

Cindy Bradley, a Mission Committee member who spearheads outreach to the schools, describes the motivation to help: “Salem church members have been blessed to be part of a strong Farmington community education system. Many church members have benefited from the many school programs and services. Salem’s backpack outreach is one small contribution we provide to those in need so they too can take advantage of a strong education.”

For more information about Salem Church, visit To learn about Neighborhood House, visit