SENT is part of a new weekly series telling stories of people at Pulpit Rock living missionally in their unique contexts. We believe that all of us have been SENT into our neighborhoods, workplaces and city. Our hope is that you are encouraged and inspired to lean into the places God has called you. And then we’d like to tell your story. Because we know that the story of God’s people is the story of God. If you have a story you would like to share with us send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You saw a need in your school this year and decided to do something about it. Can you tell us about it?
I have been a school social worker for nine years, five of those years working at schools in the Harrison School District in Colorado Springs. I have been the social worker at Mountain Vista Community School (MVCS) for four of those five years. Each year the needs of the children and families I work grow more apparent, and the lack of resources to support these families can be seen. The student population is impoverished, with a high number of students qualifying for Free/Reduced lunch. A lot of families are barely making it and rely heavily on programs provided through the school (this year I have taken over the Food Pantry, as well as have begun a clothing closet). [Editor’s note: That story coming soon!]
About two weeks before Thanksgiving break I received a phone call from a parent asking questions about Christmas support for families through the school. Up to that point, I did not do anything to support families around the holidays, so I reached out to my counselor. She too informed me that she did not do anything to support families in this way, nor were there any supports for families around the holiday’s provided by anyone else in the school. This did not sit well with me at all. I began to question why we did not have a program to support our families. I prayed asking God to support me as I dove into this new idea (as time was not on my side). I began to do research about initiating an “Angle Tree” type program, which I later named the MVCS Giving Tree, and then solicited help from my counselor. After pitching the plan to my principal, the Giving Tree was a go.
The week we got back from Thanksgiving break I sent home a flyer asking families two questions: 1) Did they want to help support families with Christmas gifts? and 2) Did they need help this year with purchasing Christmas gifts for their children? Everything was kept anonymous, gift lists were gathered from parents and then the children’s lists were placed on our Giving Tree. We had teachers and staff, families from our school as well as some community people (military group and hospitals) step up to help out! As fast as I could get their lists up on the tree they would be taken off and people would ask when more children were going to be placed on the tree. I reached out to Pulpit Rock and began a partnership with the school. Eight gift lists of the children from MVCS were provided to the families of our Preschoolers at PRC. We talked in the preschool classes about Christmas, and how we could help those in need. Then the gifts started pouring in! We got two bikes, roller skates, roller blades, art kits, nerf guns, super hero figures, dolls, science kits, books, clothes, and the list goes on and on. The generosity of people was incredible! My office looked like Santa’s Workshop as gifts were wrapped before being delivered to families. It was so heart warming to call and talk to parents, listen to the parts of their stories they wanted to share, help them realize they are not alone in life, and then call them to let them know their gifts were ready. The looks on their faces were incredible as they looked with shock at the piles of presents being donated to their children. Almost every parent made a comment about how many gifts were being given. They were in shock.
What an amazing way to show the love of Christ in a public school setting where talk of Christ is not allowed. I thought if we could support 30 children that would be wonderful for our first year, and if we could support 50 children that would be incredible (but so highly unlikely).
In the end we were able to support 65 children (MVCS students and their siblings at various schools in the district) and 24 families!
What was your favorite memory from this project?
We had one parent that I was unable to reach due to issues with their phone and email. After discussing with the student’s teacher, we decided we would get gifts for them even though contact was not made. When the gifts were ready we were able to reach the mother and she was uncertain what she was coming to the school for. She was told we had presents for her children. The look on her face when we rolled down two carts of gifts for her family made me nearly burst into tears. Tears rolled down her face as we explained that we had been unable to reach her about our new program and had decided to get gifts anyway, knowing that things have been tough lately. As we walked out to her car she said, “I didn’t know what I was going to do for Christmas this year. I didn’t think we would have anything.” Giving her a hug and showing her how much we care for her family was incredible.
What is something you personally have seen or learned as you stepped into meeting the needs of your school community?
People are generous and kind. Even with everyone getting caught up in their own lives, complaining, and our self-centered natures… the heart of people is good. I was blown away by the number for families that stepped up and took children off the tree. I was amazed at the generosity of people, not simply purchasing one gift, but bring in boxes full of gifts. It is so easy to get caught up in the negativity of the world and forget that God is good and he created goodness, love and kindness. It also taught me to remember that God knows what he is doing. He had that mother call me so I could put this together, so we could serve not 30, not 50, but 65 children this year! I can’t wait to see what next year brings!
Any advice you would give to others who are looking for ways to love others where they live, work and play?
Even if you don’t feel you are capable, you feel you’re not smart enough, you feel you don’t have enough time, don’t let those fears and doubts stop you. When you feel that nudge to do something, stop and do it. I could not have imagined how well this would have turned out. Did I love how last minute it all felt? No. Did I love that we were still trying to get presents to families on the last day of school? No. Did I love late nights at work calling parents when I had a million of my own things to get done at home to get ready for Christmas? No. But I could not let that stop me. I knew in my heart this is what needed to be done. Don’t let all the business and stress of life stop you. If you do, you will never hear the story, see the smiles, and have the opportunity to let someone know they are loved!
Note from Sarah Tinan, Early Childhood Director: “The Early Childhood Department is thrilled to join Klista in providing an easy way for preschoolers to connect with meeting needs of those close to their age, whose families are struggling for basics. What an excellent introduction for three and four year olds in being SENT!”
Klista attend Pulpit Rock and is on staff in our preschool department.