Christian community is reaching out to support education in Newberg in more ways then ever

Last spring, several Love INC and local church volunteers in the area expressed the desire to support local schools in a way that would cover an unmet need.

That dovetailed perfectly with the Newberg School District’s efforts to finalize a new system-wide emergency response plan and the Love INC emergency-kit ministry was born.

That program, which will distribute more than 2,000 emergency kits to all elementary school students in the district in the coming weeks, represents a new and direct avenue for local churches to partner with local schools, but the relationship is still growing.

The generosity is pretty terrific. I think it’s a

reflection of the community we live in.

Claudia Stewart, school district spokeswoman

In addition to the 200 backpacks filled with school supplies that Love INC distributed to students in August, the charitable organization is also set to launch a weekend food program this school year to help combat hunger in the area.

“The generosity is pretty terrific,” district spokeswoman Claudia Stewart said. “I think it’s a reflection of the community we live in.”

Beginning with Mabel Rush and Joan Austin elementary schools, the program will provide backpacks containing a loaf of bread with jelly and peanut butter for students to take home after school on Fridays and return on Monday mornings.

The program is open to any family in the district and will not require any application or background information, helping to ensure the privacy of families in need.

Love INC Executive Director Polly Siler’s plan for the weekend food backpack program is to start small, see how it goes and then build from there.

“Clearly, she’s looking to the long term and this is not just for this year,” Stewart said. “She’s certainly in the position that she sees there is a need.”

In both the food backpack and emergency kit ministries, individual churches will each support a specific school, usually one located nearby, with Newberg First United Methodist Church (NFUMC) and Newberg Christian Church (NCC) supplying Mabel Rush and Joan Austin, respectively, in both cases.

“We’ve been partners with Joan Austin since their first day open and we’ve been wanting to do a food bag program for years” NCC volunteers minister Debbie Groat said. “We saw it several years ago at a conference we had gone to, so we’re really excited to finally get it off the ground.”

Both churches and Love INC are still in the process of gathering supplies, especially peanut butter, and working out the final details before launching the food project.

The emergency kits each contain an emergency blanket, provided by Love INC itself, as well as a mini bottle of water, a lollipop, crayons and a coloring book, all provided by individual churches, which were in charge of assembling the kits. They are intended to help sustain and engage students during school lockdown situations that could last for a sustained period.

In the case of First United Methodist, adults began packing with the supplies then available, with the congregation’s middle and high school students completing the job. The kits were collected and displayed during a recent service, during which the youth involved shared their thoughts before the congregation offered a prayer blessing.

“I’m happy with the response we had with our congregation and happy about the opportunity to serve the schools,” NFUMC) Pastor Bob Flaherty said. “It’s a new project for all of us, so there were little details that had to be dealt with. Overall it was a good thing and a good thing to do for the schools.”

Groat printed up flyers and incorporated the gathering of supplies into NCC’s numerous summer camps, with participants recruiting and collecting a large portion of what was needed for the project.

“They were very excited about helping us,” Groat said. “Kids love to help kids. We had a really good response.”

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