Thanks to the local United Methodist Church in one Kansas community, many children already can cross a major item off the list of back-to-school chores.
First United Methodist Church in Emporia is providing school supplies to the approximately 4,500 students from pre-K through high school this fall.
“It has evolved into the whole district,” said the Rev. Jeannie Jensen, senior pastor.
The program began as part of the initiative by Great Plains Bishop Scott J. Jones several years ago to delve into church-school partnerships. It became a partnership in fundraising alongside the church’s capital campaign, Jensen said.
First UMC has worked with key staff members in the Emporia schools to find out what was most needed by students in the district, which includes one high school, one middle school, six elementaries, a learning center and an early childhood center.
“It’s a partnership that has been growing slowly,” Jensen said.
A mission outreach team worked with the school for cases such as a student who didn’t have shoes or a young family whose apartment had caught fire, she said.
But having school supplies overwhelmingly became the greatest need.
“It seems like they never had enough (three-ring) binders,” she said. “They kept breaking them and losing them, and a lot of (the money for) that came out of the teachers’ pockets.”
Money also was initially provided to help pay for graphing calculators for high school math students.
“It’s a very expensive item, and many of the students could not afford them,” said Jensen, whose church paid for 200 of them.
After buying supplies for high-schoolers for the 2015-16 school year, the church is expanding for this year into all age levels. The church’s Serve Team is asking for monetary donations rather than the items themselves.
“We won’t turn it down,” Jensen said, “but we felt like we could do a lot more if we get monetary donations and then do some very careful shopping.”
One member of the Serve Team negotiates with a local store and is able to buy in bulk to get a better bargain, the pastor said. The items will be distributed in August when school starts.
Even though big-box stores offer drastic discounts for back-to-school items, Jensen said she hopes it can spark a “pay it forward” effort to contribute elsewhere with the money that might have been spent on pencils, paper and crayons.
“Hopefully they’ll find some other way to support the community,” Jensen said. “Hopefully it’ll inspire them to think of other ways in which they can contribute.”
Learn more about how your church can get involved with an area school.
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