By Ariel Gilreath
Children across the state are preparing—and often dreading—their return to school this fall. In most South Carolina schools, that means the last two weeks of August children will be scurrying down halls and heading to classrooms. But not every student has the supplies needed to face the looming school year.
To meet their needs, United Methodist churches across the state have begun gathering their own school supplies for those children.
Jericho United Methodist Church, Cameron, has collected school supplies for Epworth Children’s Home throughout the month of July.
The United Methodist Women at First UMC, Clover, also held a school supply drive during July. This drive, started four years ago, delivers between $1,500 and $2,000 worth of supplies to local schools.
“We firmly believe that shrinking school budgets and increased requests from teachers should not be an obstacle for students to be successful or (be) ostracized,” said Managing Director Geoffrey Dubiski.
New Beginnings UMC, Boiling Springs, collected book bags filled with supplies for more than 100 local children coordinated by the Upstate Family Resource Center and supported by a few local churches. Volunteers this year from New Beginnings will also help distribute the bags throughout early August.
“We do not have to drive far in our community to find families in great need,” said the Rev. Terry Fleming. “The New Beginnings family is determined to impact our local culture by ensuring that no child has to go without the supplies needed to succeed in the classroom. This is such a simple way to love that can have such a tremendous impact.”
Trinity UMC, Aiken, will have a Blessing in a Bag clothing program Aug. 8 where church members bring clothes they have outgrown. These are later sorted and donated or sold for $1 a bag.
At Dickson Memorial UMC, Townville, school supplies are collected for the elementary school located behind the church, and the teachers are treated to brunch.
School supplies can mean backpacks, pencils, pens, etc., but it can also entail food items. Many children have difficulty bringing or buying lunch, and sending food items can mean a child may not have to go without lunch or dinner.
Trinity UMC, Conway, will have an annual Fall Festival back-to-school bash Sept. 1 where they will celebrate the new school year with barbeque, games and fellowship. Participants are asked to bring a nonperishable, canned food item to give to “Backpack Buddies” a local food charity that sends meals home with children who do not have food readily available.
Bethesda UMC, Kingstree, has an annual community cookout with activities and games, and at the end of the event, school supplies are given to students ranging from pre-K to college.
Other churches, such as Bethel UMC, Peachtree Rock and Morris Chapel UMC, Dorchester, host events with a variety of donations to the community, including supplies, back-to-school haircuts, food and games. Bethel also has fingerprinting and picture I.D. provided by the Explorer’s Group of the Sheriff’s Department for younger children.
The Jefferson Parish, consisting of Hopewell, Sandy Grove, Mount Elon and Wesley Chapel UMCs, will host their first Back-to-School Bash Aug. 2 where they will give away bookbags stuffed with school supplies and host workshops on school safety, bus safety and good dental hygiene.
At Broad Street UMC, Clinton, there was an annual Reading on Broad Street event where children visited the reading carnival, received stickers for each tent they visited and were able to exchange their stickers for a free book at the end of the night.
A back-to-school drive is conducted for the whole month of August at Zion UMC, Pageland, and once it ends, the collected supplies will be distributed to schools in the area to use for students in need.
“As the new pastor here at Zion UMC, I have seen lots of love from the people here and can’t wait to be a part of this event and the other events that we do,” said the Rev. James W. Lewis Sr.
Fairfield UMC, Piedmont, also provides bookbags filled with school supplies that are appropriate to the students’ classifications.
By Ariel Gilreath