A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

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The idea came to us four years ago during the recession. Michigan was hit hard and we were stranded in the Top Ten states for unemployment. The State kept cutting the education budget, laying off teachers, and privatizing multiple segments of the education system. It was rough. It was discouraging. It was affecting our kids.

As a small church, there wasn’t much we could do other than pray for God to put an end to the recession. People in our congregation and our community were complaining about the decisions government were making. The public schools had their hands tied, and teachers were the most discouraged of all.

Then we had a thought. A divinely inspired moment. What if we could lift the morale of even one school? What if we could encourage teachers in our community? We could express our concern in a tangible way. We could help teachers help their students.

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There are many non-profits and churches who hold school supply drives each year. We commend them and we see the need. However, in our community, we saw a need behind the need. We saw teachers who needed to be empowered. They were beaten up and run down, and no one was telling them they were important. No one reminded them they were making a difference.  They were preparing to start the school year with a budget deficit as well as a deficit of resolve. So we resolved to establish a school supply closet just for them.

We had a nominal relationship with a local upper elementary school. So we contacted the social worker there and told her of our idea. The first year we delivered several boxes of school supplies, tissues,and hand sanitizer. I sat down to write each teacher a note telling them how much they were appreciated and committed to pray for them throughout the year. We also included a $5 coffee gift card for their first day of school.

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The social worker, who was a Christian, greeted us and thanked us profusely. She was so precious! We had hoped to meet the teachers and talk with them. Nothing. No response…until 5 months into the school year. I received a thank you note from one of the teachers with a request to come and read to her class.

The following year we contacted the school again. Now they were excited. I think perhaps they wondered if we were serious; if we were trustworthy. If you want people to trust you, then you have to be trustworthy. And trust requires two things: time and consistency.

So the second year they gave us a list of their ten most needed items. We delivered several boxes of those ten items along with 25 handwritten notes and $5 coffee gift cards. One month later I received a thank you note and a request to come read to a class.

The third year they gave us a list of their ten most need items. But they emphasized how much they needed backpacks. So we delivered 30 backpacks along with several boxes of school supplies and 25 handwritten notes with $5 coffee gift cards. A week later the social worker called me. One of their families had lost a parent over the summer. Our school supplies provided everything they needed for the entire year for that family. It was the best thank you note ever!

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We are getting ready for our fourth school supply drive for Cooper Elementary. I am writing notes and buying coffee gift cards. And our bin in the church lobby is filling up. One of our families called to tell me their place of business wants to participate. They are donating a case of backpacks and school supplies. We are praying for so much stuff that it overflows! We want to bless an additional school in our community. We want to encourage more teachers and students. We want to be a church who is relevant in their neighborhood. And, most importantly, we want to be a church who is trustworthy!

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