Stepping up & Assisting
In a matter of days, the majority of schools will open their doors to returning students, and in tough economic times, many are doing what they can to assist parents in kitting their children out for the new academic year. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk is no different. The church teamed up with McDonald’s to assist parents in the church’s neighboring community in getting their children ready for school, not just with physical supplies, but words of wisdom to take them through the new year.
“For the eight years we’ve done this there has been a huge need,” said Kirk Pastor Reverend Bryn MacPhail. “I don’t want to pretend that we’re fully meeting the needs of the community but we are one congregation trying to do our part and make a difference in the lives of 200 people. We feel like whether the economy is strong or weak there will always be people in need and we stand ready to assist.”
The school bags donated by McDonald’s contained basic essentials – notebooks, pens, pencils and rulers. Younger students received scissors, glue and crayons while older students got highlighters, pencil crayons and calculators. Church members and the popular fast food-restaurant chain picked up the tab for supplies. Each bag was valued to have held between $45 and $50 worth of goods.
The outreach to the Bain and Grants Town community stems from the fact that it is the closest constituency to the church, which sits on Shirley Street on top Peck’s Slope just a stone’s throw away from the inner city.
“When we started this initiative eight years ago, no students from the Bain and Grants Town community were a part of this church. Now, we fill a bus every Sunday with children from the community who are a part of our Sunday school,” said MacPhail, whose church hosts others events for the neighborhood children and sponsors trips for students to attend Camp Bahamas in Eleuthera.
“We have a lot of touch points throughout the year. We are not just here to make ourselves feel good once a year. We do several things all year every year. We are vested for the long haul.”
At the back-to-school event, 150 students packed into the Sir Geoffrey Johnstone Hall of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk where the church and McDonald’s restaurants partnered for the annual back-to-school event.
McDonald’s provided lunch in addition to the sturdy backpacks. The church used word of mouth to find those in need of the remaining 50.
“When the decision was made as a church to give back to the community, that’s in line with our corporate values so our involvement was a no-brainer for me,” said church elder Earla Bethel, president of DanBrad, which holds the McDonald’s franchise for New Providence.
“There will always be a need. What we are doing is only a small dent for a small number of people but based on the trajectory of the church we will be doing more in the very near future.”
McDonald’s also provides school bags to outreach programs in three other constituencies in which it operates as well as to a church on Market Street.
“For some of these families they don’t have the financial resources to buy books and pens, or a bag for school. For their parents who cannot afford to provide them with the essential resources that they need for school this helps that parent or that family. To be impacting lives in a positive way is amazing and if we only impact one life then it’s worth it.”
One student who has missed only one of the back-to-school events in the eight years it has been held is incoming senior Brian Selestin. Accompanying him to this year’s event were his 12-year-old and three-year-old sisters.
“Life isn’t hard for me but the free school supplies take a little stress off my mother’s back,” said the 16-year-old, who earns extra cash as a grocery store packing boy and from the occasional construction job to assist his mom in buying supplies for himself and his sisters.
“She doesn’t have to worry as much about back-to-school shopping. We appreciate it,” he said.