When the congregation at St. Andrews Church in Little Rock, AR, moved into their building eight years ago, their leadership prayed for a way to be an agent of hope in their community. They began a partnership with Wilson Elementary school, where a majority of students deal with financial issues, come from unstable homes, or face English language challenges.
Below is an excerpt from St. Andrew’s Newsletter describing the ways the church has helped students feel loved, encouraged, and set-up for success.
At St. Andrew’s we identify as a “Community of God’s Grace and Healing.” This description affirms our commitment to transforming lives, both inside and outside the church, through relationships that embody Christ’s love and mercy, and reflect the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Wilson School Ministry is a wonderful example of transformation inside and outside our church doors.
Our Back-to-School Festival provides a morning of fun for students and families to help ready students for the start of school. We provide new uniforms and a backpack for each student attending, lunch, games and medical/dental attention.
On the first Tuesday evening in December, St. Andrew’s invites Wilson students and staff and their families to come to the church for a Christmas Blessing. The families join us for a great meal, a craft and a plate of cookies. The students also receive a gift of a new school uniform. The night ends with the Gospel message and a time of prayer. This is a joyous time of sharing and building community.
In addition to these two church-wide events, St. Andrew’s is present at school throughout the year through mentoring, donations and financial assistance.
The Encouragers Program is designed to provide an opportunity for interactions between students and mentors. From October through April, St. Andrew’s volunteers meet weekly for a “boots on the ground” program designed to develop relationships as we practice classroom skills.
Good News Clubs meet on Monday afternoons in the fall and spring. These six-week, fun-filled, after-school sessions provide the opportunity for children to hear the Gospel and learn the truth from God’s word.
Partnership in Education (PIE) is a leg of Wilson Ministries that attempts to bridge Wilson School needs and St. Andrew’s resources that do not neatly fit into other categories. PIE responds to extreme financial needs that may arise. Working with the school’s counselor, Ms. Norris, we have helped a family that suffered catastrophic loss due to fire and assisted with some household and rent payments. Other discretionary funds are used to meet student specific needs.
In December, we provide every student with a free Wilson sweatshirt. New and slightly used coats are solicited through the general congregation and delivered to Ms. Norris for distribution. We also coordinate with Ms. Norris to include Wilson in our annual Christmas food drive, Boxes of Love, with 25 boxes delivered to the school right before the Christmas break.
In the spring, St. Andrew’s likes to recognize teachers and staff during Teacher Appreciation Week with small gifts for faculty and staff. At the end of May, St. Andrew’s Church is delighted to host Wilson School’s Fifth Grade Graduation. And throughout the year we collect Box Tops for Education and Soup Labels.
So what have we seen in our years in service to Wilson School? We have become known as a consistent and caring partner for this school community. Christmas Blessing and Back-to-School Festival serve a large number of families. Test scores have improved, and children have been clothed and fed. We are greeted in their hallways with smiles and hugs. They are transformed, and so are we.
The story “Wilson Elementary” first appeared in St Andrew’s Summer 2015 newsletter and was written by Carol Nichols and Carol McMath.