From Bluebird Houses to Literacy: Russell Memorial Invests in Kids
By: Sherri Gragg
Russell Memorial UMC, Wills Point has embraced Bishop Jones’ “We Love All God’s Children” initiative by coming alongside local schools to provide supplemental educational enrichment for students.
Russell Memorial Serves Wills Point Children
As the last school bus rolls out of the parking lot of Wills Point Intermediate School and the hallways fall silent, a group of fourth graders excitedly make their way to an afterschool club led by Russell Memorial member, Kay Crosby. Under Crosby’s careful guidance, the children are making their own bluebird houses from start to finish. “Wills Point, Texas is the Bluebird capital of the South,” explained the Rev. David Cartwright. “The children spend several weeks working on the houses after school. Once they are finished, they paint them and take them home. They are so proud.”
The Bluebird house afterschool club is just one of a host of supplemental educational programs led by the dedicated volunteers from Russell Memorial. Currently, the church works in three of the five schools in the Wills Point Independent School District as part of their “We Love All God’s Children” efforts. The outreach program, headed by husband and wife, Ernie and Cyndi Fields, provides math tutoring services, literacy enrichment, an afterschool STEM club (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and monthly birthday celebrations for students.
Literacy and Math
In Wills Point Primary School, the church focuses on literacy. Volunteers from the church began by reading to the children during their library time. When the school lost a much-needed library assistant due to funding cuts, Russell UMC member, Debbie Faulkenbury, stepped up to bridge the gap. She now spends around eight hours each week in the library, reading to students and helping them with school projects.
Mathematics tutoring has become Russell Memorial’s primary focus for grades two through six. The church provides before school tutoring for Wills Point Middle School two mornings per week with an average of sixty children in attendance each day. “The school has 400 children and four math teachers,” Fields explained. “The teachers just don’t have the time or energy to help everyone.”
Russell Memorial also provides math tutoring at Wills Point Intermediate, but the principal has opened the door for the church to do so much more. The volunteers run afterschool programs and pitch in wherever they are needed. When the school has a supply shortage, Russell Memorial takes up a special offering to meet student’s needs.
This year, the door opened for Russell Memorial to invest in the “discipleship” arm of the Bishop’s initiative as well. When Wills Point Middle School lost the volunteer leader for their afterschool “Men and Ladies of Honor” program, the principal approached Russell Memorial to ask if they would consider leading the faith-based club.
Russell Memorial is generously serving the children of Wills Point, Texas, but the church is eager to expand their ministry. Fields would love to develop relationships with the remaining two schools in the district. He also hopes more volunteers will join the effort, because the schools need them.
“We are empathetic concerning what the schools are facing,” he said. “They have a big job. There are not enough hours in the day.”
A Nigerian proverb states, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” but perhaps what it really takes is just one church like Russell Memorial.
A church committed to loving all of God’s children.