Rev. Bob Kells
The last day of school is always filled with excitement for the students of Sabillasville Elementary School, as they prepare to head out for their summer break. For the past four years, several local churches have made this an extra special time by bringing the children books to read over the summer.
It started in 2015 when I joined the school’s volunteer program, along with several members from Weller UMC in Thurmont where I am the pastor. Volunteers at Sabillasville work with the children for an hour or more each week. We help them with reading and math, and whatever other tasks the teachers have for them. The work is personally fulfilling for the volunteers and is fun for the children, who look forward to working with the adults.
In the spring of 2015, I was volunteering with the kindergarten class. Summer was approaching and, as their teacher shared with me, summer is a time when the children are at risk of losing ground in many of the skills they developed during the year. Reading is one of those skills. I also learned some of the children do not have many books to read at home. That last piece of information got me thinking that this was something the church could help with.
After talking it over with Sabillasville Elementary School Principal Kate Kreitz, I asked our Missions Team to organize a book drive for the kindergarten class. The Thurmont Lions Club, which I joined the year before, has as one of its missions to promote literacy. The Lions Club pitched in and donated book bags. The response was tremendous. We collected enough books that first year that each kindergartner got to take home seven books.
After the first year, the book drive grew to cover the entire school. We got some additional support from Deerfield UMC in Sabillasville, who agreed to cover the kindergarten books, while two other churches from nearby Rocky Ridge joined in to collect books for the other grades. Once again, the results were impressive. On the last day of school, each of the 120 children received a Lions Club book bag and three books of their choice.
The school book drive is fast becoming an annual tradition for these churches and the school they support. This year, all of the children received three or four books; pencils and stickers; a book bag; and a card from the churches, wishing them a good summer and “Happy Reading!”
Not only is the book drive helping with the school, but Deerfield UMC has begun hosting a luncheon for the teachers and staff at Sabillasville at the start of the school year. “It’s a great time for the teachers to relax, to unwind, and to just socialize before classes start,” said Deerfield’s pastor, Ray Dudley.
The teachers help to shape the lives of the children to make the world a better place. By serving a luncheon, Deerfield shares the love of Jesus in the community.
The book drive and the teachers’ luncheon are just two ways local churches can give to the community. Both keep the churches engaged with their communities, and both contribute to the education of the children.
The children are the focus of these efforts. My hope and prayer is that they receive more than just the books. My hope and prayer is they’ll remember that in addition to their teachers and administrators, they have local churches that love them with the love of Jesus and want to see them to succeed—in school and in life.
Pictured from left: (standing) Pastor Ray Dudley (Deerfield UMC), Pastor Bob Kells (Weller UMC), Par Alexander, Henry Alexander, Joan Staub, Jim Monroe; (kneeling at table) SES Principal Kate Krietz; and four Sabillasville Elementary students.