Lindale UMC Donates Shoes at Back to School Carnival
By: Sherri Gragg
As Lindale UMC Family Ministries Director, Kim Johnson, makes last minute checks of volunteers and carnival games, Senior Pastor Michael Peschke, takes his place as a greeter next to the front door. He is armed with a mountain of goody bags. Outside, a line of excited children stretches down the sidewalks as their parents fill out registrations forms that they will turn in to receive a golden ticket.
At last the moment arrives. The doors open, and children rush inside to try their luck at a variety of carnival games where winners will go home with school supplies instead of stuffed bears and their golden ticket guarantees them a brand-new pair of shoes.
Building Relationships Through Fun
“We have given away school supplies before,” Johnson said, “but we wanted it to be something more. By combining the giveaway with a carnival, it was a chance for the families we serve to come to church, build some relationships and have some fun.”
Lindale UMC, Lindale, Texas is acutely aware of the tremendous struggles facing families in their community. Years ago, a former pastor began to fill a church coat closet with canned goods so that he would have something to give hungry families who came to Lindale UMC looking for help. The closet grew, the ministry expanded, and today Lindale UMC serves thousands of families each year in their We Care ministry. Johnson has made it her mission that every outreach to kids will be fun too.
Elevating a Burden for Families
Johnson knows that school supplies are often an overwhelming expense for the families Lindale UMC serves. She hopes that by wrapping the give-away in a carnival, the stigma of need will disappear for children in all of the fun. She also wants families to linger long enough to make a connection with Lindale UMC so that the next time they are hurting, they will feel comfortable turning to the church. “Every time I plan out outreach, I try to do it in a way that builds relationships so that families are more comfortable coming back for church, counseling, English as a Second Language Classes, or to meet with a pastor. If they come through our doors for fun, maybe they will come through more easily for spiritual needs as well,” Johnson said.
Through donations and a partnership with Texarkana nonprofit, Laces of Grace, the Lindale UMC Back to School Carnival provided more than 200 children with new shoes. Another 250 pairs of shoes were donated to a local elementary school to have on hand for children in need. Additionally, Johnson gathered school supply lists for each grade and purchased commonly needed items including headphones.
Next year, Johnson hopes to partner with several other local churches to expand the Back to School Carnival. “Our church could focus on new shoes, another church could supply jeans or backpacks,” she said. “We want to make it bigger and more inclusive.”