Tyler church works together to help raise money for custodian staff

Date Posted: 12/9/2021

By Lindsay Peyton - En Español
Across the street from Pollard UMC in Tyler stands Woods Elementary, where custodians work around the clock to keep the school clean and safe. “They’re not always seen,” Rev. Collin Taylor said. His congregation, however, definitely does take notice – and wanted to thank these unsung heroes for their hard work.
Marla Matthews, Director of Missions and Discipleship, said Pollard UMC often works to help area schools. “But we were trying to do something new,” she said. “We wanted to highlight a group that wasn’t really noticed.”
Student Ministries Director Colleen Russell jumped on board. She grew up with parents in education, and they often found ways to honor custodians. She wanted to follow in their footsteps.
“She called and found out how many custodians there were in Tyler ISD,” Matthews said. “And that’s 175 custodians on 31 campuses.”
Soon, Russell and Matthews had a name for their mission --  “Caring for Custodians.” Their vision was to reward each custodian with a $25 gift card to Brookshire’s grocery, baked goods and a thank you card from students in the church’s Kids’ Kaleidoscope early childhood school.
“Then Pastor Collin and I started to pitching the idea to our church,” Matthews recalled.
“We were really hoping to get $2,500 from our congregation,” Taylor added. For the rest, he hoped to appeal to the church’s Pollard Foundation.
Church exceeds goal
“But we far exceeded our goal,” Matthews explained. “We ended up receiving more than $7,000 from our members, guests and parents from Kids’ Kaleidoscope.”
Teachers from the preschool even began baking goodies. “It turned into this huge thing,” Matthews said.
Taylor said that all ages got on board, from elderly church members to children in Bible study. “It’s been church-wide,” he added. “It’s been so much fun to see everyone get involved.”
Church staff and members volunteered to deliver gifts on Monday, Nov. 15 through Friday, Nov. 19. There were multiple deliveries each day – and each one came as a surprise to the custodians. “They were so overwhelmed and humbled,” Matthews said.
One custodian thanked her over and over again. “He must have hugged me five times,” she said. “He kept saying, ‘Do you know what I can do with this gift card for my family? And just to know someone is praying for me, I can’t believe a stranger would do that.”
And that’s something Pollard UMC takes seriously. “Our congregation is literally praying for every custodian at Tyler ISD,” Matthews added.
Kayce Ross, District Supervisor of Custodial Services, helped Pollard plan the details and map out their deliveries. “No one has ever asked me what they can do for custodians before,” she told Matthews.
Custodians have gone above and beyond during COVID, Taylor added. “Cleanliness in schools has always been important, but during the pandemic, cleanliness was paramount – and much more difficult,”  he explained. “We want them to know, ‘Y’all have always borne the burden.’”
“If they didn’t do it, we literally couldn’t do anything at our schools,” Matthews added. “We just want to know what we should do next.”
A holiday tradition
The church exceeded its fundraising goal, and Pollard plans to continue Caring for Custodians next year, making the ministry a holiday tradition. “And we hope to expand the program in some way, shape or form,” Taylor added.
He explained that Pollard UMC seeks to meet needs that others might not see, instead of duplicating other efforts. “This really spoke to my heart, because it’s an actual gap,” he said. “Our church stepped up in a big way.”
Matthews added that the youngest church members are learning from the effort. “Our kids can see that the people who take care of our schools are valued and important,” she said.
Pollard UMC also had the opportunity to engage with the entire school district in a new way. And that opened their eyes to other needs in the schools. “This is just the beginning,” Pollard said. “We are here to help. We want to make a tangible difference in the community.”