Katie Cannon is a Red Oak High School Senior who doesn’t wait for Christmas to give back to the community. Filled with a desire to help others year round, Katie has been instrumental in starting several successful programs and drives. With the help of friends from church and school, she collects and distributes hygiene kits and “Bags for the Better” to homeless men, women and children. They have distributed over 500 kits the past two years.
“This ministry actually started as a Facebook post. Many of our congregation members (at First United Methodist Church DeSoto) shared it to their personal pages and were discussing what a great idea this would be for a new ministry,” Katie said. After I saw this shared for about the fourth or fifth time within the congregation, I approached our Youth Director and Senior Pastor with the idea. With all the enthusiasm being shown from the congregation, it was easily approved. We began collecting donations about two weeks later. The program has now been running about two years.”
All hygiene kits include shampoo, body wash, deodorant, snacks, a tooth brush, toothpaste, and wipes. Kids also receive toys with their items, which are packaged in a backpack. Women receive pads and tampons in handbags; and men receive various items, such as combs, in tote bags.
Bags for the Better
“The bags were all donated from our congregation members as well as donors from programs we partnered with. We partnered with ROHS Student Council, ROHS National Honor Society, ROHS Theatre department. With any monetary donations we were given, we purchased the needed supplies, including tote bags, from Amazon.
In Nov. of 2019, the volunteers handed out about 250 of their bags and hygiene kits and other various products through FUMC Grand Prairie, FUMC Wheatland, and the DeSoto food pantry
Katie says, “We met the same numbers with the same partners in 2020 despite COVID-19. Over the last two years, we have been able to produce about 500 hygiene kits for the homeless all over Dallas. Currently, we are focusing on collecting gloves, hats, mittens, and scarves to distribute to help keep people warm this winter. However, donations of handbags and hygiene items are always appreciated and needed.”
“We have had the blessing to watch God work through our congregation at FUMC DeSoto, ROHS Student Council, ROHS National Honor Society, and ROHS Theatre as they helped with this ministry,” Katie said. “These organizations have had their members donate and assist in assembly of the bags, which has allowed us to help so many people.”
FUMC DeSoto & Partners
The FUMC DeSoto worked with FUMC Grand Prairie, FUMC Wheatland, and the DeSoto Food Pantry to distribute the bags. They also distributed Bags for the Better and other items through the “Body of Christ Food Distribution” ministry at First Grand Prairie for people in need of food and hygiene products.
Katie said, “FUMC Wheatland has gone on multiple trips through downtown Dallas to hand out bags to those that are living on the streets. The DeSoto Food Pantry has helped hand out these supplies as well to those in our community seeking assistance. Our congregation volunteered to put together all of these kits in teams, while maintaining social distance. We are so thankful to God for showing us a way to help the community in a safe way despite these troubling times.”
“At FUMC Desoto, we have a history of being the hands and feet of Christ and are actively committed to spreading love and hope throughout our community,” Katie said. “We are so grateful we have been able to do this ministry. We’re still doing ministries such as feeding the homeless at Austin Street Shelter, Coat Drives, Bags for the Better, and virtual Children’s Sunday School. We also cook Thanksgiving dinners and more holiday meals for those in need.”
“In a world of video gaming, self-interest, and teen angst, you find a rare gem in Katie Cannon,” said FUMC church volunteer Sandra Conley. “Katie’s connection to making the world a better place is more than a dream. She looks at a problem and finds the possibilities are endless with her faith filled life. She is the dynamic teen we would all like to be or to have been.”
Virtual Sunday School
Katie said, “We are offering a virtual children’s Sunday school program during the pandemic. Since we cannot have Sunday school live right now, we are handing out prepackaged kits with curriculum folders, a craft for each week, and “monthly minute ministry” activity that teaches the kids how to help and love other people as God did. The “monthly minute ministry” portion is entirely for someone else, but allows kids to see how God can work through them no matter what. In March, we had about five kids attending Sunday school. Now we have 40 kids a month. We are mailing out kits to people interested who are not in the area, and even to other states. We are ALWAYS happy to welcome anyone that is interested,” Katie said.
Rev. Kevin Strempke of FUMC DeSoto said, “Katie Cannon is God focused and mission oriented, and acts out in caring ways through the love of Jesus Christ.”
Katie is the daughter of Scott and Kimberly Cannon of Red Oak. She has a brother, Michael Aldridge, and a sister, Karissa Aldridge. After finishing her Associates of Science from Navarro College in Waxahachie and also graduating from ROHS this spring, she plans to attend the University of North Texas in Denton. She hopes to finish a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a focus on public relations and a minor in political science.
“Despite being in Denton, I will be driving back for church services activities at FUMC DeSoto. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I plan on going to seminary at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology for a Masters in Divinity. With this degree, I plan to go into ordained ministry within the Methodist Church,” Katie said. “Kelsi Bullard and Kevin Strempke (at FUMC DeSoto) have been amazing mentors in my walk with God and as I’ve entered ministry. Through every planning meeting, they have been there for me in a Godly relationship to ensure that all of God’s children are helped,” she added.