By Jessica Brodie
SANDY RUN—For more than two decades, Beulah United Methodist Church has hosted a thriving afterschool care ministry for its community. One of the church’s most vital ministries, their after-school care has long provided a place of educational and spiritual support and growth for hundreds of children and their families.
In March, when coronavirus closed local schools, the after-school care program at Beulah shut its doors. The program’s director, Jen Garrison, secured a PPP loan that was able to continue to support the staff, but as the new school year approached, Calhoun County Public Schools announced they would begin the school year with entirely virtual instruction.
In response, Garrison and the church’s After School Care Committee worked tirelessly to secure a certificate of temporary operation with the Department of Social Services, allowing them to pivot to an all-day e-learning child care program.
Beginning in late August, Beulah UMC opened its doors once again for children in the community to come and learn. Since then, families experience the love of God through a staff that helps kids work through their e-learning, provides meals and snacks throughout the day, and gives an opportunity for meaningful playtime with other kids.
As one of, if not the only, opportunity of its kind in the area, the program hopes to continue to expand and welcome 30 children each day.
Beulah’s All Day eLearning Childcare Program serves church members and the community, focusing on the parents and children of Sandy Run K-8 School, who are largely 5 to 12 years old.
Garrison said they worked to get the cost as low as possible; the cost is $100 per child per week.
“With children being out of school and parents headed back to work, I knew children needed to have a place to be,” Garrison said. “But I knew that they didn’t need just another daycare—they needed a place that would help them with their e-learning, that would help them get to classes on time, help them with their classwork and then help them with homework at the end of the day We as a church knew that families needed us, and we knew we needed to find a way to be there for the children and parents of our community.”
Garrison said they are thankful DSS gave them the opportunity to temporarily open while the schools are not fully open to the children
“We are thankful to be able to help if even in this small way,” Garrison said. “It has been such a blessing to see amazing teachers teach awesome children. To see the learning that is going on over computer screens is amazing. I must be honest, as a mom of three I had my doubts about virtual learning. But watching what I have watched since August, I know without a doubt these teachers will not let the children fall behind.
“Our children are learning; light bulbs are going on all over the place!”