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Three churches join forces to help local students get ready for school
Gina Shelton, left, and Cathy Wallace, volunteers at The Community Fellowship, hand clothes for students in the middle and high school room on Saturday. It was one of three sites where school supplies were given away on Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Three churches joined forces Saturday to help area youth go “Back2School.”
The Community Fellowship in Collinsville has sponsored the event annually for five years. For the first time this year, the event also was held at two other churches — Mount Calvary Pentecostal Holiness Church in Axton and The Church at Mercy Crossing near Martinsville — so more children could be served.
More than 1,500 area children received free footwear, clothes, school supplies and haircuts to prepare them for the new school year.
Also taking part was Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that strives to share hope and love with needy children worldwide by washing their feet and giving them new shoes.
Foot-washing is practiced by some Christian denominations as a way for a person to be humbled while helping someone else.
“All this is done to share hope during our tough economy and to share the love of God,” said Michael Harrison, the fellowship’s lead pastor.
After their feet were washed in dish pans by volunteers, children were given new shoes and socks. They received haircuts if needed. Each child also got a new backpack full of school supplies and six clothing items, such as shirts and pants, plus a hat and a beverage.
Chick-fil-A at Liberty Fair Mall donated half of the money it received from milkshakes sold Aug. 1 to help prepare the backpacks.
Although some of the items given away were donated, the fellowship paid for many of them. Harrison estimated that his ministry spent $30,000 on the event. He said most of the money was donations from area churches and the public, but some grants also were received.
More than 400 volunteers from the community participated at the three locations, Harrison said.
Verna Herring of Martinsville said she loves children but does not have any.
“I count everyone’s children as my own,” she said, explaining why she took part as a volunteer at Mount Calvary. She called the event “fun and exciting.”
Harrison said for him, the best part of the program was being able to spend one-on-one time with children to help them realize they matter to people.
“It’s an honor to serve students and their families,” he said.
Parents had to preregister their children for the event.
Angela Sunkins of Martinsville, who said she is disabled, brought her children, Journey and Caleb. She said the items received “helps us out tremendously.”
Sunkins said the fellowship is setting an example by its willingness to help people with needs. From a religious perspective, she said that participants realize their needs will be met “if you follow your faith.”
“No matter the situation, Jesus gives you hope,” Harrison said. His ministry intended to help the participating parents and children realize that, he said.
Harrison said he hopes next year’s event can be expanded to six or seven locations.
Ultimately, “my hope is that we can become a regional thing,” he said, adding that ministries as far away as South Carolina are interested in eventually participating.