It started with two questions-what do you need, and how can we help? Community-minded members of New Beginnings Church met with officials of Eagle Rock, then both White City elementary schools last year. “One principal related some serious shortages,” said Lisa Greatman who heads the children’s ministry at New Beginnings.” They sorely lacked books, and volunteers to help in the kids’ reading programs. Amid dwindling budgets, our educators looked for willing helpers they could recruit from among local citizens.”
In 2007 the Church’s parishioners donated 300 new books listed on the schools’ approved reading roster for fifth graders. The pupils received copies of “Prince Caspian,” from “The Chronicles of Narnia” said Pastor Don Calvert. This series, including “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” had soared to popularity among elementary and middle-schoolers, and received wide acclaim from parents. Offered the options to accept or decline these books, individual students’ families overwhelmingly accepted.
Last Spring, Greatman relayed to Principals and faculty that New Beginnings would furnish at least seven volunteers. “We expected to have one or two for each weekday,” she said. “When summer vacation came, the teachers thought we’d forget all about them. To their surprise, in September, we returned with about thirty people.”
Some from the congregation take personal time off from their jobs, or give up meal breaks to drive to school and mentor children. In addition to being “lunch buddies,” others, including Calvert and Greatman serve as tutors in reading or elementary math. “School counselors will recommend names of students who could benefit from caring adult mentors,” says Greatman. “Sometimes we’ll go on the playground with the kids and join in games with them. They love that individual attention they’ll get from their own lunch buddies.”
“The impact these people are having shows itself every day,” said Loris Fenner, secretary at Eagle Rock, who is overseeing the project at Eagle Rock.
One couple who volunteered from New Beginnings decided to buy a warm coat for a lunch buddy they had befriended. The little one’s mom later reported that the delighted child had even worn that new coat to bed the first night.
Located on the west side of Highway 62, less than a mile north of Vilas, between White City and Central Point, New Beginnings is non-denominational. They welcome more volunteers who want to bring positive changes in youngsters’ educational lives. The church’s phone number is (541) 245-8888.
Adults who qualify to spend time helping minors in school settings, must first pass screenings-criminal background checks, and fingerprinting. “Our goal,” says Greatman, “is to recruit enough qualified helpers so the teachers can say, ‘Now we have all the volunteers we need.'”
“We know the schools want us there; we love being there. Are there easier, more fulfilling ways to share our love of Christ and our fellow humans than to assist in our community?”
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent