Miss America Serves project filling backpacks, entertaining at Florida Baptist Children’s Home
LAKELAND – Consider it a lesson in perspective.
On Saturday, April 8, the current Miss Florida, Courtney Sexton, along with nearly 50 young women who will compete for the 2017 title, will work as one at the Joe K. Blanton Campus headquarters of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes in Lakeland. There, as part of the Miss America Serves project, the titleholders will pack backpacks for hungry children, sort donations and spend time creating memories – all while learning an important lesson.
“I want these women to not only realize they make a difference,” said Mary Sullivan, “I want them to realize how truly blessed they are.”
In 2016, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes provided more than 171,000 services to children and families in Florida and around the world who were neglected, abandoned or abused. It was just this kind of work that inspired Sullivan, who grew up in Lakeland, to partner with Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
“It has come a long way,” said Sullivan of the children’s home. “Today, its mission is far more complex than it was when I was a child in Lakeland in the 1950s. To see where they are today is inspiring.”
Prior to the day of service, the young women individually worked to collect food items to be used during the event. The food then will be stuffed into backpacks that will then be presented to local elementary schools to help fill the food gap for needy students.
“We are ecstatic to be partnering with the Miss Florida Pageant organization once again. They have helped expand our backpack program and bring more awareness to the needs of children,” said Leon Battle, director of compassion ministries, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. “Last year, they worked extremely hard collecting essential items from people throughout the state, as well as preparing hundreds of backpacks for children. Their presence on the campus visiting with children brought unforgettable, joyful memories.”
The event is part of the third annual national day of service for the Miss America organization. On one day in each state around the nation, a Miss America contestant and other future contestants band together to serve their local communities.
“This is a time when these women step back from the competition to truly make a difference within their own state,” said Sullivan. “I feel that there is nothing better than Project Backpack for these women to be able to provide a service to those who are less fortunate. In return, they will be able to actually see how their compassion in action ensures that children do not go hungry.”
A part of the program will include a selection of the prospective Miss Florida’s performing their skills for the children at the facility.
In 2016, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes provided more than 171,000 services to children and families in Florida and around the world who were neglected, abandoned or abused. Other services provided by Florida Baptist Children’s Homes includes The Porch Light, the children’s home’s effort against the domestic sex trafficking of children, and Orphan’s Heart, which helps provide for the spiritual and physical needs of vulnerable children throughout the developing world.
The Miss Florida Pageant has a rich history that spans more than eight decades, and it continues to award college scholarships to outstanding young women around the state. For more information on the pageant visit www.missflorida.org.