BY LAUREN SEPHTON
While the NC school shutdown meant no dress code and more relaxed mornings to some students, it presented a towering dilemma to kids in the public housing community. They were no longer guaranteed breakfast and lunch, the education gap was widening by the day, and “0’s” in grades were being stacked like IHOP’s “all-you-can-eat” pancakes.
Already preparing over 350 meals weekly to give to those in need “pre-COVID,” Hope Community Church nearly tripled their meal donations upon shutdown. With the limited reopening of Forsyth County schools in August, they saw a devastating need that went beyond the extensive commitment to provide the simplest of meals for the local community. On September 2nd, they opened their doors as the first free, remote learning center for Winston-Salem Forsyth County schools, only to find that their students did not have the resources, nor often the guidance, to complete and submit their required schoolwork since the March shutdown.
Hope Community Church is grateful for Imprints Care and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, partnering with them to provide each student with no cost, one-on-one learning with a diverse group of devoted teachers carefully selected from the church. From early mornings to late evenings, with little to no breaks, these role models wake up ready to prioritize the children’s needs. Going beyond the educational demand, Hope Community Church has a deputy and nurse from Novant Health on-site at all times. However, they don’t just sit around until needed; they both are actively involved with serving the kids. For instance, the deputy not only watches over the safety of both staff and students but has become a role model to many. You may even catch him shootin’ hoops with the students during their lunch break! Debbie Lanier of Hope Community Church expressed her admiration as she watches this “beautiful healing between the kids and law enforcement.”
Taking all necessary precautions, from plexiglass between the desks to masks inside the classroom area, Hope Community Church is making a lifelong impact on the lives of each child that walks through their doors, knowing passion can be felt, but action makes it count. Not only are they helping the students catch up on missing work, but they are tutoring them to excel in all subjects. After speaking with some of the children, one 8th grader proudly shared his accomplishment of passing every class. Another elementary student recalled her favorite memory of everyone reuniting on September 2nd with squishy hugs and cheerful spirits as they reconnected with school, cherished teachers, and beloved friends.
Lanier expressed that as we continue to walk into this time of uncertainty, it’s no longer sufficient to hunker down until things “pass.” No man is an island. Every person has the ability to make a positive impact in another’s life or bring a long overdue smile to another’s face. It can be as simple as dropping a home-cooked meal at the doorstep of someone older or substituting time spent mindlessly scrolling through social media to facetime long-distance family.
With that said, let’s take a little step back to the program that initiated everything, the contact-less food distribution drive-through that is held every Saturday at Hope Community Church from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. With lines that circle their parking lot, they safely provide boxes of food essentials – from frozen meat to fruit – to anyone that pulls through, without asking questions. Individuals who sacrifice their time to pack the boxes each week and joyfully give necessary resources end up reaping a harvest of thankfulness amongst their community. The discovery of the needs continues multiplying and Hope Community Church is constantly seeking more supplies. So, maybe you’re not a fan of cooking for your neighbor, but how about replacing today’s extra treat with something that will fill an empty stomach. A person’s spirit is often uplifted by serving others, because every individual was created for a purpose greater than themselves.
But the needs of your community don’t stop there. The doors have always been opened; therefore, the question really is, are you willing to step through them? We all have something to give, even if it’s as simple as bringing a homemade sandwich to an older neighbor. The hope of just one person to fulfill a need with an open heart, putting others higher than herself, can change the future of generations to come.
There will be no greater time than the present to make an impact in someone’s life, so let’s step off the sidelines cheering and begin asking, How can I take action today?