July 9, 2013

Engineers of the Heart

There is considerable research that shows that children who are not reading at grade level by third grade face far higher risks than their peers of dropping out of high school, becoming pregnant, unemployed or of entering the prison system. This was the statistic that, nine years ago compelled Mary Bullock and others at First United Methodist Church (FUMC) to step up to the plate and with a razor sharp focus take action.

“This isn’t going to be easy, you know,” Mary grumbled when she agreed to recruit tutors from within the church. “I don’t know if we can get the number of volunteers we need to pull this off well.”  Mary’s worries quickly dissipated as a dedicated cadre of talented tutors came forward and began working with 1st and 3rd graders on a weekly basis. Promise Helpers was born. And then, two years of grant money, totaling almost $10,000 made possible through Henkel— thanks to church member/Promise Helper Rob Hilliard, who as an employee of this international German company made it possible for Spring Valley Center for Exploration to use euros to purchase books and other reading and learning materials to enhance the work that the Promise Helpers were doing in the school. In addition to funneling volunteers through CIS to Spring Valley, FUMC established a Promise Helpers Fund which has helped with such things as providing books for the school’s in-room libraries, for math textbooks, and school backpacks/school supplies. “FUMC’s presence at Spring Valley,” says Site Coordinator Martha Serio, “has truly been a blessing.”

Mary Bullock died on June 22nd and we at Communities In Schools and the Spring Valley family will sorely miss her. She worked hard to nurture and build the Promise Helpers. (She made it look easy even when it wasn’t.) Each time, though, a Promise Helper walks through the school doors her work lives on.

I am grateful to have had the chance to thank Mary for her volunteer work with CIS. I told her that she was like an architect of the soul, that her work with Promise Helpers has been like building a very important building. Something bigger than the Empire State Building. Something more impressive than the Eiffel Tower. Something that will last far longer than the great pyramids of Egypt. She has, through her work at FUMC, been sending our children some of the finest engineers of the heart. She, her Promise Helpers, and all of our faith partners have been doing the forever work that never fades but only grows more powerful by the day.

So thank you Mary, thank you Gil, thanks to each and every Promise Helper and each and every faith partner who continues the vital work of supporting the most beautiful and wondrous cathedrals of the world: our children.

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