The Outreach Committee wishes to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of our parishioners for the incredibly wonderful impact the Panda ministry has had – and continues to have – on the children in our community!
The Panda Ministry is an ever-evolving outreach ministry of Christ Episcopal Church supporting students in our community. It started in 2014 as a backpack food program,
supporting a neighborhood elementary school and, in 2019, is thriving and finding new ways to make an impact for kids in Winchester and Frederick County.
There are two ways to participate in this ministry:
1. Pack food! We participate in a larger food distribution run by Bright Futures, a group who works within Frederick County and Winchester City Public Schools to connect
student needs with existing community resources. Join parish members in food packing for two sessions a month, and combat food insecurity in our local school community. To help, contact Sara Bicking.
2. Interested in mentoring a student at Frederick Douglass Elementary School during the school day? We are exploring opportunities such as book buddies, lunch buddies, and rec buddies… Stay tuned for more information on sharing your time with kids aged pre-K through 4th grade. If you’re interested in mentoring a student,
contact Mary Margaret Wise.
The History of the Panda Ministry
During 2013, when we first discerned the need not being filled by school lunch and breakfast
programs and realized that so many school kids were going home to families that could not feed them over the weekends, the Outreach Committee investigated to see how ‘backpack ministries’ were being used in other areas to get weekend nutrition to kids. We looked to see what worked (and didn’t work); we looked to see what it would cost; we looked to see if you, our church family, would be willing to step in and make a difference.
We contacted the Winchester City School Board and asked them to identify where the highest need in the city was occurring and they identified Frederick Douglass Elementary as a school in need. Following discussions with the principal and lead guidance counselor, the Outreach Committee recommended to the Vestry to start this new ministry beginning in January 2014 and the Vestry approved.
We started out providing weekend food to about 30 school kids when the ministry started. Now, just over four years later, our contribution of food and time has increased the number of kids served to about 100! Plus, we feel it safe to say that your actions in supporting Panda Pantry raised a great deal of awareness about child hunger within the community and the schools; so much so that Bright Futures – a non-profit organization that combines and leverages the giving resources within communities (much like the United Way) has joined us in feeding additional school kids in both the city and Frederick County. The combined effort now provides weekend nutrition to almost 1,000 children!
We look forward to continuing our involvement in feeding hungry children. We have more people volunteering to pack food than ever before and we are anticipating many new opportunities for our congregation to become involved in many more of the needs faced by the littlest among us.