Disciple: Supporting the Schools
As children and families head back to school, we celebrate the relationships between churches and schools across the Diocese of North Carolina.
St. David’s, Laurinburg
For more than 25 years, St. David’s has been in relationship with the school next door. It began with providing and blessing backpacks and expanded to supplying lunches over holiday breaks to ensure students would have meals when school was not in session. Eventually becoming a business partner with the school, St. David’s has opened its parish hall for teacher and staff trainings, and every year the church provides them with breakfast during the first week of school, along with fulfilling special requests throughout the year.
“Helping the staff and teachers start the year feeling support is the most rewarding thing about our connection,” said Carolyn Beranek, vestry member. “We know the support helps them support their students in better ways. For the people of St. David’s, the best thing about our partnership with the school is that it provided an outreach we can do together as a church. Many of our folk are either grandparents or empty nesters, and this provides a small connection with young people.”
[Image: The 2023 St. Margaret’s, Waxhaw, VBS school supply drive. Photo courtesy of St. Margaret’s]
St. Margaret’s, Waxhaw
St. Margaret’s supports its local schools in a multitude of ways, from ongoing support to South Providence School with regular deliveries of backpack snacks, personal care items and teacher appreciation support, to opening the parish hall in support of the Marvin Ridge High School International Baccalaureate Program’s testing needs. The church also takes part in two forms of school supply support. The annual VBS school supply drive allows the young attendees in each summer’s VBS program to participate in the community outreach, while parishioners get their chance with the Back2School Bash, providing Union County students with needed school supplies along with new socks and shoes. This year’s Back2School Bash hopes to raise enough funds and supplies to assist 1,500 students.
St. Patrick’s, Mooresville
The students of Union County are not the only ones who will start the school year right, as St. Patrick’s is also a staunch supporter of the annual Back2School Bash, providing support for the students of Iredell County. A sponsor for more than eight years, St. Patrick’s focused their 2022 efforts on shoes, providing 51 pairs of shoes and raising $3,100.
“Giving back to the community where we worship, live, work and play is an important part of St. Patrick’s,” said Julie Klapp, member of St. Patrick’s. “Many parents who needed the B2SB services one year have come back the next year (and the next year, and the next year) to volunteer. These volunteers bring a special message of hope to the event and share their stories with new participants.” If there was any doubt of the impact a program like this has, Pete Sale, St. Patrick’s B2SB ministry leader, shared that at the beginning of this year’s campaign, the B2SB board was looking for a student intern to coordinate this year’s bash. The position was filled by a Mooresville student who a few years ago was on the receiving end of a backpack, school supplies and a new pair of shoes.
[Image: The 2022 St. Patrick’s, Mooresville, Back2School Bash shoe drive. Photo courtesy of St. Patrick’s]
St. Mark’s, Huntersville
St. Mark’s is another church with a long-standing relationship with a local school. The congregation has worked to support Ranson Middle School for 35 years, providing school supplies, personal products—even towels for the locker room—and backpacks filled with weekend food for those designated by the school’s social worker. Each Advent season, St. Mark’s shares an Angel Tree, from which parishioners can select gift requests or supply gift cards for students, along with “thank you” gift cards for teachers and staff. In more recent years, St. Mark’s educational outreach has extended to fundraising support for a nearby second-language preschool.
Christ Church, Charlotte
Christ Church works with Rama Road Elementary School in a variety of ways. Over the course of each school year, the church’s work includes providing volunteer leadership for a Girl Scout troop, tutoring, lunch buddies, teacher appreciation, and yearly donation drives for school supplies, Thanksgiving meals and other needs as they arise. The church also sponsors a five-week Freedom School summer enrichment program at Rama every summer, which requires substantial financial and volunteer support.
St. Titus’, Durham
For seven years, St. Titus’ has been in partnership with their neighborhood school, CC Spaulding Elementary, fulfilling the needs identified by the school as they arise, whether that be supplies, clothing, tutoring, or other means of supporting the students, faculty and staff. As one of the school’s community partners, St. Titus’ takes part in monthly meetings to hear about school success stories and the challenges that need to be overcome.
“The faculty and staff are busy, and they care so much about the students and their families,” said the Rev. Sarah Woodard, deacon at St. Titus’. “Being able to respond to some of their needs has built a relationship that is strong and ongoing, and because the needs are so varied, it’s provided opportunities for many people in our congregation to serve those needs.”
St. Francis’, Greensboro
You can always count on the churches across the Diocese of North Carolina to find new and creative ways to serve their surrounding communities. At St. Francis’, their annual “back-to-school” drive takes place during Epiphany. The Epiphany Project came into being because teachers can often be challenged storing the results of generosity early in the school year, only to run out of supplies long before the school year ends.
“It makes such a difference in the lives of both teachers and students to know that the community cares,” said the Rev. Matt Addington, assistant rector at St. Francis’. “New pencils, erasers, markers are all very small things that make a big impact on the learning environment, and helping to give students and teachers a chance to succeed is the good news of the Gospel.” St. Francis’ currently partners with Joyner Elementary in Greensboro, and in 2024, the church will celebrate its 70th anniversary by expanding The Epiphany Project to sponsor Irving Park Elementary, where the first parishioners of St. Francis’ met before the current campus was constructed.
[Image: The August 2022 Blessing of the Backpacks at St. Francis’, Greensboro. Photo courtesy of St. Francis’]
Since the program’s inception in 2013, Nativity has supported Pride Packs, an initiative created by the PTA of Leesville Elementary to supplement the Interfaith Food Shuttle Backpack Buddies program, which provides weekend meals to students. Throughout the school year, donations and goods are collected on the first Sunday of every month; volunteers then pack and deliver the donations on Monday. In 2022, Nativity expanded its school outreach by becoming involved with The Homework Haven, a program of the NC State Science House in coordination with the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation, to provide students with tutoring. About Nativity’s outreach, “Knowing we’ve provided nourishing food to children who otherwise likely would have had little or nothing to eat over the weekend and working with children who need attention is quite rewarding,” said one volunteer. “They and their parents are so appreciative.”
St. Ambrose, Raleigh
One Church One School Ministry (OCOS) is a partnership between St. Ambrose and Fuller Magnet Elementary School to support efforts in achieving excellence in education. What began in 2013 as an outreach ministry has grown into a partnership that includes providing school supplies; donating Thanksgiving baskets for families in need; sponsoring a Giving Tree/Angel Tree at Christmas; hosting an annual Education Sunday in which Fuller faculty members are invited to participate in worship and a fellowship roundtable; tutoring students in need; offering the parish hall for banquets and Science Olympiad Award programs; and providing breakfast during faculty meetings. OCOS was recently nominated for and won the NC PTA State Community Partner Award.