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In the season of giving, two North Salem Baptist Church members go the extra mile
owls by MK Mercer


A Port Wentworth church has packed and donated 72 Christmas backpacks full of toiletries, games, toys, books and more as part of the Backpacks for Appalachia Christian Ministry.

This is the first year that North Salem Baptist Church has participated with this ministry, but they hope to increase their backpack numbers and to personally deliver them to the Appalachian mountains in the winter of 2017.

“I thought asking our small congregation to fully pack 30 backpacks was ambitious, but the backpacks came in 24-packs, so we set out all 48 that we ordered,” Pastor Quillian Mercer said. “Within two weeks, all 48 were taken by church members to be filled and we had members asking for more. Our AWANA director ordered another case of backpacks and amazingly, our church fully filled and returned 72 backpacks.”

Two church members created handmade touches for each of the bags.

Cross-shaped wooden pull-fobs were added to each zipper pull on every bag by Philip Moore, a church member who crafts wooden crosses for necklaces, key chains and jewelry.

In addition to the 216 crosses he attached to the bags, many of the backpacks received a cross necklace which Moore crafted as well.

Another homemade gift which went into many of the younger children’s backpacks (nearly 60) was a stuffed owl, crafted by eight-year-old Melinda Kaye Mercer, daughter of Pastor Quillian Mercer.

Melinda Kaye began sewing the owls in late August with the initial goal of sewing 48 owls - one for each bag the church was packing.

When the number of backpacks increased to 72, she increased her goal to 60 owls. She finished owl No. 60 about 10 days before the backpacks were to be delivered to the collection site.  

“I love that in addition to helping pack the bags, these two church members took the God-given talents and skills they have and used those talents to bless children all over Appalachia,” Mercer said.

North Salem Baptist Church is located in Port Wentworth on Ga Hwy 30 beside the Lake Shore subdivision.

The church meets weekly on Sundays with Sunday School beginning at 9:30 a.m. and worship beginning at 10:30 a.m., in addition to Sunday evening Prayer Meetings and Bible Study at 6 p.m.

Other ministries of North Salem include AWANA for children and youth (Wednesdays at 6 p.m.), Helping Hands Ladies Ministry and Young at Heart Senior Adult Ministry.

For more information about Backpacks for Appalachia or North Salem Baptist Church, contact Pastor Quillian Mercer at 912-777-9382.

More information can also be found by sending an email to or on by visiting their Facebook page by searching North Salem Baptist Church.