NEW PALESTINE — Matthew Carter put a small bottle of mouthwash into a bag already containing tiny shampoo bottles, tooth brushes, soap and more, then zipped it shut.
He gently stacked it with dozens of other similar bags of personal hygiene products.
The New Palestine High School freshman was one of hundreds of people who gathered at Brookville Road Community Church recently to fill more than 1,000 appreciation and care bags for organizations in Hancock County as well as Morristown and Indianapolis.
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“This is pretty fun,” Carter said. “It’s good helping people out — I really enjoy it.”
This time of year the church missions board usually conducts a banquet to discuss philanthropic programs, but instead this year it created Missions in Motion, through which the congregation could be involved with a local mission project.
Missions in Motion was designed to collect, pack and hand out more than 400 appreciation bags to police officers and firefighters, as well as care packages to local organizations that serve people in need, including the homeless.
“This is a family-oriented event where the kids can participate in missions rather than us taking them on a trip somewhere,” Mike Roney, a missions board member, said.
The idea is to help young churchgoers understand the need to help others and show appreciation to law enforcement officials and firefighters, people who put their lives on the line daily in service to the community.
The church’s main worship center was set up like an assembly line where hundreds of church members moved throughout, selecting items, packing the bags and getting them ready to give out.
They also had a separate room designated to make birthday bags for those in need.
More than a dozen gathered in a different area of the church for a prayer circle to help bless the work and the people receiving the gifts.
Area firefighters and law enforcement officers received appreciation bags containing gift cards, thank you notes and coupons.
Hancock County Food Pantry received 120 birthday bags containing cake mixes, cooking pans, icing, food for a birthday meal and a birthday present, as well as bags of personal hygiene products that can be provided to those in need. Eighty birthday bags went to Yeshua Society, an inner-city Indianapolis church plant.
The new Hope Center of Indianapolis, located at the eastern edge of Marion County and founded by former church pastor Hubert Nolen, received some of the 400 Hope Bags packed with hygiene products. A portion of these bags also went to Yeshua Society.
The center will work with women who are rebuilding their lives after escaping human trafficking situations.
Officials said any leftover bags and supplies would go to Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis.
The church previously participated in 16 missions groups that serve people nationally and internationally; Missions in Motion joins that list.
The plan was created to strike a balance between sending money and people overseas and dealing with issues at home.
“We want people to see the needs we have in our own backyards,” youth pastor Paul Romoser said.
The missions board started planning the Missions in Motion event six months ago, and thanks to generous donations, it was able to collect the needed gifts, food, presents and products within a couple of months.
“The community involvement was huge for this,” event organizer Missy Shadday said.
The group also planned to pack at least 100 bags people of the church could pass out to homeless people they encounter in their daily lives.