Today we highlight the work of Milwood Christian Reformed Church. This faith-based partner was honored this past spring at the sixth annual Champ Celebration. (This is the eighth installment of a nine part series.)
“Giving of Ourselves and Resources in Service to Others.” That is part of the mission statement of Milwood Christian Reformed Church. For the past decade, both Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Schools have seen them living that belief—in a variety of ways—with our children at Milwood Elementary School.
Most of you are probably aware of our Friday Food pack program that is made possible by our partnership with Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes and other organizations. What you may not realize is that Milwood Christian Reformed Church was instrumental in helping us develop this program back in 2003. Along with Loaves & Fishes, they worked closely with our CIS staff at the time—taking a few “field trips” to food banks and a trip to a school in Vicksburg, to learn more about a similar program already underway. What we learned from their efforts—of helping CIS deliver Friday packs to 50 Milwood Elementary students that first year—allowed us to work the kinks out. Their members breathed life into this pilot program for our hungriest children that now, nine years later has expanded to 650 children receiving weekly food packs across 11 schools, with an additional 1,250 children served during CIS and KPS summer programming.
Over the years, despite leadership changes within the school from principals to site coordinators, Milwood Christian Reformed has remained a steadfast partner. Not only have they continued to support the Friday Back pack program at Milwood Elementary—both with volunteers and financially—but they have also recruited and funnelled to our Site Coordinators solid, committed volunteers who mentor and tutor children. In 2006, they went through the work and training necessary to become part of Kids Hope USA whose motto is: One Child, One Hour, One Church, One School at a time through one-on-one mentoring relationships.
CIS Site Coordinator Abby Nappier can’t say enough of the tremendous work of Jane VanTuinen, Milwood Church’s Volunteer Director of Kids Hope USA. “She works tirelessly to recruit and retain a strong core of committed individuals. Volunteers come filled with joy,” says Abby. “They show up for the same child year after year and often keep in touch with their student as they graduate to middle school.”
We could go on but we’ll leave you with the voices of children through letters they wrote to their mentors like Miss Helen, Miss Lesley, Miss Betty, Miss Sue, Miss Jody, Mr. Bob, Ms. Rose, and Grandma June. Their words are testament to the transformative power of a loving presence in a child’s life. They underscore the words of CIS founder Bill Milliken who said, “Programs don’t change kids. People do.”
“I really needed you this year because I needed help with math and reading. I have learned from you how to stop fighting, and I learned how to be good in class. I have learned from you how to be a good girl, good reader and I learned how to listen…You make me feel happy inside.”
“I have learned from you about math, reading, and I learned that I can be a doctor or teacher if I want…Thank you for giving me love!”
“I can tell that you care about me because you laugh with me, you talk to me, and we play games. My favorite part of Kids Hope USA was going to the farm and going on a tractor ride.”
“I will always remember you because you are part of me.”
“I really liked it when we got together and played games, and we made crafts. One time we went outside to find signs of Spring…I know you’ll always care about me…Thank you for mentoring me all these years. I love you.”
Milwood Christian Reformed Church, we thank you for helping students stay in school and achieve in life.
Tags: Abby Nappier, CIS, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, faith based partnerships, Jane VanTuinen, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Kids Hope USA, Milwood Christian Reformed Church, Milwood Elementary School, volunteering