WEST COLUMBIA—Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church began a new ministry journey in June when it discovered food was needed for approximately 50-60 vulnerable students each week during the school year.
Their “Snack Backpack” program at H.B. Rhame Elementary School in Columbia ensures children have food on the weekends.
To help this ministry, a special event, “Sweet Bites with Betty,” was hosted by United Women in Faith. T1he group invited their friends for a gathering of 70 women for desserts and an original play, “The Bettys” (based on the story of Betty Crocker), by Debi Young, the church’s intergenerational ministries director. Everyone who attended donated non-perishable food (individual packs of oatmeal, grits, macaroni and cheese, applesauce, juice boxes, goldfish crackers, etc.) to give to the school.
Then in July a hot dog supper and school supply drive was planned at Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC. School supply lists for each grade level of H.B. Rhame were distributed at church. The drive collected 20 boxes of supplies for pre-kindergarten through fifth grades. The list also included specific requests from teachers. Dr. Monica Carter, the principal of H.B. Rhame, was a guest and spoke to those gathered.
Knowing the church would need help continuing to supply the needs of H.B. Rhame Elementary, the four Broad River Road area churches—Virginia Wingard, St. Andrews Lutheran, St. Andrews Baptist and Westminster Presbyterian—entered a ministry partnership with the school. This elementary school has some 500 students and is located in the Richland One school district. It is also a Title 1 school.
In cooperation with the principal and guidance counselor, Young invited representatives from each church to come to Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC to meet and discuss the needs of the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. In August, St. Andrews Baptist Church hosted a teacher and staff luncheon where 60 teachers and staff received gifts of appreciation for their dedication and commitment to education. They were also asked to indicate other ways the four churches could help.
Dr. Carter asked that the churches collect children’s books to be available at H.B. Rhame’s Open House on Sept. 7 for parents and children to take home and read together. The remainder of the books collected will be used as an alternative to having a book fair during the year.
Also in September the four churches participated in a joint effort to provide socks for the 500 students with a “Sock It To Me” sock drive. A representative from each church delivered the socks to the counselor’s office at the school.
Virginia Wingard Memorial members said they are thankful to be in ministry with brothers and sisters in Christ of the area churches to help meet needs at this school.
As they continue this partnership, members from each church are being vetted to serve as volunteer mentors, reading partners with students, volunteers at special events and in the Lunch Buddy Program in which a person eats lunch with a student on a regular basis.