A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

By Lindsay Peyton

FUMC Dayton is preparing for its seventh school year helping young friends in need through its Friends In Deed program, which provides supplies, clothes, shoes, Bibles and gifts to children.

Linda Jamison was inspired to start the ministry after hearing about similar programs in other churches.

“I was a member of the staff parish relations committee, and new ministries came up in our discussions,” she said. “Our pastor at the time said we needed more ministries at our church and challenged us to come up with something different.”

Jamison presented the idea of Friends In Deed. “I thought it could work in Dayton,” she said. “We have a lot of low income children in our schools.”

The pastor and church administration told her to take the reins and run with it.

Jamison asked for volunteers and donors – and members of the congregation jumped at the opportunity.

The head of nursing at Dayton ISD presented the church with a list of names of students in need of help. Jamison then wrote to their families, asking if they would like to participate in the program. If one child is identified in a household, his or her siblings are invited to join as well.

In August, participating students receive school supplies, and a month later, clothing specifically selected for them for the fall.

At Christmas, the church provides the children with age-appropriate Bibles, devotionals and small gifts. Then, in the spring, participants receive more clothes and vouchers for shoes.

Families provide the church with the sizes for the children, and volunteer shoppers at the church find items that are stylish and will fit. Then, participants come to the church four distribution days held each year to pick up the goods. Hygiene items are part of each event.

Jamison explained that the program costs about $600 per year per child. The church helps about 22 or 23 students annually.

Children are invited to join the church for Sunday school, youth groups and summer camps. Jamison also tells the families about FUMC Dayton’s food pantry and Society of St. Stephen’s, a store that offers gently used clothing and housewares at discounted rates.

This year, Jamison located a closet in the church to store extra school supplies for the Friends In Deed program.

“This really makes an impact on these kids lives,” Jamison said. “We get them involved in the church, and we try to give them all of the options that we have. They come to youth group, and they have so much fun that they keep coming back.”

Jamison said that each year 10 to 12 volunteers work together to make the program a success. “Without them, I couldn’t do it,” she said.

Pastor Guy Williams joined FUMC Dayton last summer and was glad to discover the Friends in Deed program in operation.

“I love this ministry because we support the students in the program throughout the whole school year, not just once at the beginning,” he said. “Newer members of the church are excited by what they see and want to get involved.”

He added that several of the junior high and high school students have even become part of the church’s youth ministry through the relationships they developed with Friends In Deed. 

Jamison hopes that the church’s dedication will inspire others to consider the Friends In Deed model.

“I would love it if other churches would pick this up,” she said. “We’re helping children one good deed at a time. It’s just a helping hand until they no longer need us.”