Aug. 27, 2012
While riding a CTA train, Jennifer Ibarra noticed a Seeds to Succeed ad. She looked up the website and decided to sign up to volunteer at Marcy-Newberry on Aug. 11. The single mother brought all five of her young children to the site that early Saturday morning and worked for hours weeding outside, picking up trash and organizing classrooms. “In order to plant seeds, you have to start with them and help them to grow,” said Ibarra who wanted to show her children the importance of giving back.
Ibarra is one of more than 250 volunteers who came out to give back to the community by participating in Seeds to Succeed service projects across Northern Illinois. The Northern Illinois Conference received a generous impact grant from Rethink Church to assist in advertising, planning and promotional materials for Seeds to Succeed.
“As a conference, we planned this whole summer to be out there in the community and local schools in Chicago, Elgin, Rockford and across the conference,” said Bishop Hee-Soo Jung to nearly 20 volunteers gathered outside Community United Methodist Church to work across the street at Willard Elementary School in South Elgin.“The schools really need our hand, our connection, and our love. That’s why we believe our actions will make a difference.”
Bishop Jung was one of several volunteers who picked up a paintbrush to give a fresh coat to the lunchroom inside Willard School. “We are so fortunate and so thankful to have these volunteers come in to support our school and support our kids,” said Willard School Principal Jason Franzke.“It’s really inspirational to see the commitment and the enthusiasm that the volunteers have and we’re really lucky to have them here.”
Community UMC member Nancy Ball spent the day weeding and planting new flowers and plants donated by the Flower Wagon outside the school’s entrance. Ball is a second generation alum of Willard. Her father went to the school along with her siblings. “I live in this community so I wanted to do my part to help make it beautiful to welcome the kids back to school,” said Ball.
Elgin Project Backpack
An estimated 2,000 people stood in line for hours to receive a backpack and school supplies at Elgin Community College on Aug. 11 and United Methodists were there to reach out to them. Kara Berg of Epworth UMC knew families with young children would be waiting outside in the summer heat for the third annual Project Backpack.
As part of Seeds to Succeed, Berg wanted to hand out water to those waiting in line. Volunteers from First UMC Elgin, Cornerstone and Epworth set up water stations along the long line thanks to a contribution from D’Angelo Natural Spring Water. “We were worried about the temperature and all these people waiting in line in the hot sun with no refreshment,” said Berg.“We just wanted to do something that would be essential.”
The three Elgin churches also donated more than 150 backpacks and scores of school supplies to Project Backpack. “It does help a lot. Even the small things help out,” said Misael Hernandez who waited more than three hours for a backpack with his sister and mother. “Schools are asking for so much these days, it’s just kind of hard for us to go out there and buy all these things. This just helps everybody out. I am really grateful they do this every year.”
Volunteers from St. Thomas UMC in Glen Ellyn and Kingswood UMC in Buffalo Grove also handed out information about ACT testing and bullying to parents as they came through the line. “This is an amazing example how this community comes together and supports each other no matter what the differences are,” said Berg. “They all just want their kids to be ready for school as we do too.”
Sprucing up Schools in the Rockford District
As the Harlem School District was getting ready to welcome back 1,350 children, more than 70 volunteers came out Aug. 11 to help spruce up three local schools. Coordinator Jeff Brace said Scott, Ralston School’s building custodian, was choked up by the blessing of 19 people showing up to help him get it ready for the start of the new year. “Much was accomplished at the school,” said Brace. “Volunteers did lots of painting, picking up the school grounds (over six bags of garbage) and taking part in a neighborhood cleanup within a block radius of the school.”
Lizzie Douglas hadn’t been to church for a long time and recently started coming to New Life UMC in Machesney Park. She signed up for the Seeds to Succeed project to volunteer at one of the schools. She told a local television station,“I think the community deserves it. It’s a little bit of a payback for them.”
Volunteers also gathered at Hilltop Ministry Center to stuff backpacks (40 of them with school supplies left over) and attend an anti-bullying workshop.
Volunteers from Poplar Grove UMC spent the afternoon collecting donations for the North Boone Food Pantry. They also participated in a 30-hour famine that weekend to tie in with the Seeds to Succeed project.
Rochelle UMC sent volunteers to paint the ceiling in the cafeteria, clean the outside of the first-floor windows and clean up the district office at Central School.
Grace UMC in Rockford collected school supplies and backpacks for Shirley’s Place which is a restorative justice program in Rockford run by the Salvation Army. The program gives women and their children a place to live as they work in all areas of their life with appropriate staff support.
Trinity UMC in Sterling took a two-part approach for Seeds to Succeed. They collected book bags and supplies for all the children served at the area women’s shelter and helped clean up after a massive summer long facelift at Challand Middle School in Sterling. Pastor Paul Judd said both projects were an outstanding success.
“We asked for backpacks and supplies for 20 children, we received 47 book bags and enough supplies to not only fill all 47 bags but have enough left over to resupply the book bags later in the year,” said Judd. “We didn’t expect much of a response and were overwhelmed by how God works in the hearts of our community. We experienced our own little loaves & fishes event. It seemed that the supplies would multiply overnight.We are very thankful for the help of our community and Walmart’s $300 donation to this program.”
Three generations of volunteers worked at Challand Middle School, raking, picking up branches and debris, and tending to the rose garden. Members of the congregation that go to Challand provided a pleasant surprise to their teachers who passed by preparing for the new year.“It was good hearing the children share information about their church and be introduced to their teachers,” said Judd.“We felt we were being the church as Christ called us to be.”
Growing Literacy in Our Community
Hundreds of students in the Elk Grove Village community will return to school with lots of books to read thanks to Prince of Peace UMC’s Seeds to Succeed project. Organizers worked with two local schools that have relatively high poverty rates—one elementary and one junior high. The school principals gave them “wish lists”. Prince of Peace began advertising the event throughout the village and placed drop-off boxes at the Village Hall, the public library, and the park district.
On Aug. 11, volunteers sorted and packed 951 books, 93 backpacks and over 20 cartons of
school supplies. “Hundreds of school children will be impacted by this project when they return to school. Whether they receive a book, a backpack or school supplies, they will know that people in their community care about them,” said organizer Betsy Boswell.
The project received a large donation from a 7-year-old girl in the community. Izzy Ruiz ran a very successful lemonade stand in 2011, raising over$600 for Shriners Children’s Hospital. In 2012, she chose to support Seeds to Succeed- “Growing Literacy in our Community” project. She held her lemonade stand on the grounds of the Elk Grove Presbyterian Church, which she attends with her family. Her support for the Seeds to Succeed project brought in 50 backpacks and many cartons of school supplies.
“Izzy is a delightful child and we are so grateful she chose to join us in this project. She is an inspiration to us and we hope to the children of our congregation,” said Boswell.
For more photos check out the Seeds to Succeed Facebook page www.facebook.com/seedstosucceed.