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Church offers backpacks. school supplies to Butler County children

| Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Donna Wesolek, 43, of Wexford drops off backpacks at Grace Community Church in Cranberry Township on Thursday evening, August 22, 2013. Church members collected backpacks and school supplies for children who live in transitional housing units in Butler County.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Liz Williams, 46, of Cranberry and her daughter, Nikki, 9, sort out pencils at Grace Community Church in Cranberry Township on Thursday evening, August 22, 2013. Church members collected backpacks and school supplies for children who live in transitional housing units in Butler County.

Liz Weaver of Cranberry spent a recent night writing letters to children she does not know.

“I'm going to wish her the best of luck for this school year,” Weaver said about one child. “I want to tell her that God is there for her.”

Weaver is one of about 150 volunteers at Grace Community Church in Cranberry who wrote letters to students just before the start of the school year.

The letters went into about 50 backpacks sent to school-age children who live in transitional housing in Butler County.

The backpacks included Kleenex, Elmer's Glue, staplers and illustrated versions of the Bible, among other items.

The church purchases backpacks and school supplies. Volunteers filled the backpacks according to the age of the students who will receive them. Some contents, such as graphing calculators for high school students, cost about $80.

The effort is one of several included in the church's 50/50 Challenge. The program aims to raise $50,000 each year for charitable projects. This year, the church has spent $34,000 on good works, including the backpack program.

The second 50 in the program's name refers to the 50,000 volunteer hours that the church strives to get its members to donate each year.

In addition to volunteering on church projects, members can spend time cooking meals for the homeless on the North Side, splitting wood at an Ellwood City camp or volunteering for Urban Impact, a North Side faith-based ministry.

“We think it is important for our members to be involved in the community and make a contribution. It's a way of putting faith into action,” said Cindy Zonts, director of community outreach at the church.

The church's emphasis on volunteering attracts some of its members.

Ray Davidowski, a mechanical engineer from Sarver, said he enjoyed writing the letters. “This should be about reaching out to people in the community. I just tried to encourage these students in the letters I wrote.”

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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