Presbyterians Today

JUN-JUL 2018

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12 JUNE/JULY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay COMMUNITIES MOVED BY THE SPIRIT 'Invest in Children' links church, school Congregation, kids find blessings in Florida program BY MARY ELLE HUNTER Initially those needs were par- tially met by 12 members of First Presbyterian — six men and six women. "Have you ever heard the quote 'Who saved who?' That is what I think of when I see the impact our First Presbyterian volunteers have on Brentwood's staff and students," said Folino. "Our teachers acknowl- edge their influence often to me, while children show their gratitude A call to action was extended to members of First Presbyterian Church in Sarasota, Florida, in early 2017. Following the en- couragement of the 221st General Assembly (2014) "to continue the long history of support in public education," the church took steps to partner with a local elementary school. Led by retired pastor the Rev. Ronald Miller, and with the approval and support of the session and the current pastor, the Rev. Dr. Glen Bell, a committee that called itself "Invest in Children" was formed to explore the needs in the school system. The committee found that reading levels were far below the norm in several elementary schools. Although many of the schools were receiving outside funding or community involvement to address the problem, one was identified as a school in a neighboring area with the most needs — Brentwood Elementary. At Brentwood, more than half of the students receive free lunch due to financial hardship. A meeting was held with Dr. Patti Brustad Folino, Brentwood's assistant principal, and what was to become a rewarding partnership with the church and school had its beginnings. Folino stressed an ongoing need for volunteer support, particularly in the primary-level classrooms. with smiles of appreciation to have extra help and attention." Volunteers say they too feel blessed by the experience as they accept the mission of loving others across lines of difference in the name of Jesus Christ. "It's a privilege to be present with the wonderfully diverse children as well as the deeply com- mitted teachers in the classrooms," said the Rev. Dr. Floyd Churn, KAY DUNN Steven Moore helps a Brentwood student with her lesson. The church, looking to partner with a school, decided to invest in Brentwood's children when hearing that reading levels were below the norm in the area schools.

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