SIOUX FALLS, S.D. “I have my very own bike and helmet. I got a bible and a whole lot more. I am so lucky!” This was the excited statement of one of the 73 third grade students who were blessed with a bike, bible, lock, helmet, backpack, water bottle and more at Sioux Falls Wesley United Methodist Church (Wesley UMC) last Saturday.
Wesley UMC started dreaming big after they began a bike-lending program in the summer of 2016. “Kids and parents could come to the church, check out a bike, go for a ride and then check the bike back in,” said Pastor Laura Borman, retired pastor of Wesley UMC and a volunteer for several outreach ministries run through the church’s separate non-profit Wesley Neighborhood Outreach.
The bike lending program was a big hit and kids were ringing the doorbell of the woman who agreed to facilitate the giving of the bikes and helmets and locks as kids rode around the neighborhood. Children from outreach programs at Wesley – the afterschool program, the Wild Wacky Wednesday ministry, along with those who attended Under God’s Canopy – could be seen riding those bikes with great joy and glee. The woman who so patiently answered her door and made this bike lending happen day-in and day-out came to Borman with the grand idea of giving everyone at Terry Redlin Elementary school, in the church's neighborhood, a bike. Photo: a happy girl with her new bike and her sister. Photos by Doreen Gosmire.
The Wesley Neighborhood Outreach team, under the leadership of Ron Dorsman, met and began to dream and plan. They ended up setting a goal of giving a bike to every third grader from Terry Redlin, all the third graders who call Wesley home and those third graders from other schools who regularly participate in Wild Wacky Wednesday. The total number of bikes needed was 73.
The church has reached out to this multi-cultural, multi-racial neighborhood for over 16 years. Those involved believe the partnership between the neighborhood school and the church family is critical to the church, school and neighborhood. Borman noted both the school and the church have a goal of helping the children and giving them many kinds of support. Photo: one happy girl with her gifts from Wesley UMC.
At Terry Redlin, a Title I school, all children receive free breakfast and lunch because of the level of poverty in the neighborhood. The school has over 400 students with several dozen languages spoken and a Caucasian population of 31%.
The church-school partnership involves several programs. It began with Kidz Count, a totally free after school program. This is year 16 for Kidz Count and 35 children attend each day.
Five to ten fifth graders from the school come to Wesley UMC on Saturdays to learn about computers, about respect and responsibility and God. At the end of the 16 weeks, each child who completes the program receives a brand-new computer and printer at no expense.
Wild Wacky Wednesday gives children from kindergarten through high school the opportunity to worship together, eat a full meal and then join in age-appropriate youth groups. There are 85 to 100 who attend the weekly gathering. Parents and others are invited to experience worship through the eyes of the children and youth. Photo: a happy boy gets his new helmet from a Wesley volunteer.
For six Wednesdays in the summer, Wesley opens the doors of the church for a program called Under God’s Canopy. Nearly 100 children and youth come weekly to this almost 12-hour event. It takes 50-60 volunteers to keep the program flowing smoothly. The whole crew is fed breakfast, lunch and snacks. The entire family is invited to share in an evening meal, allowing everyone to go home fed and not worrying about what to make for supper.
Scores of members and friends of Wesley UMC help with this church-school partnership that creates a safe, fun, learning, caring environment for all who are served by the programs. Volunteers serve as a mentor, a role model, a listener and a friend to a child or youth.
Delivering bikes and Bibles
The funding for the bikes came from a donor, a children’s champion, who had gave a generous gift. A sizeable grant came from Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation to purchase the helmets and locks. The Center for Hope provided a deal on the locks – one dollar each, plus shipping. Clowns came from Sioux Falls Shriners. Samaritan’s Feet gave backpacks, and water bottles were a gift through Avera @ Home. Photo: one of the happy third-grade girls poses in front of the Wesley church sign.
The bikes were licensed with the police department the week before the giveaway, so parents would not have to make the trip downtown. Wesley Neighborhood Outreach purchased story bibles written especially for third graders. Wesley UMC hopes and prays the kids get hooked on reading about the wonderful story of God and God’s love for everyone.
All these things came together and the church was able to hold a blessing on Sunday morning. “It is our habit,” said Borman. “We like to bless what we are giving and also what we are given.”
Pastor Manuel Loaeza, who recently began serving at Wesley, conducted the blessing. “It is great to see how everything came together, with the help of many volunteers, to be a blessing to the children and the neighborhood,” said Loaeza. Photo: clowns from the Shriners were on hand to add fun to the event.
The distribution to the neighborhood took place the following Saturday morning. It was a carnival atmosphere with clowns, brand new green and black bikes lined up on the lawn, volunteers ready to help each child find their bike and receive a helmet, lock, bible, backpack, and water bottle. Donuts cookies, and juice were served with a big serving of God’s love.
“I have a bike and I am going to ride it this summer,” said Emily, a third grade student from Terry Redlin. “I don’t know how to turn very well. I might fall down. I am going to have to practice turning.”
“This is what it means to be the church,” said Pastor Manuel. “This is being the hands and feet of Christ.”
2017 Kids Count Miracle Offering
Make a difference in your community through a church-school partnership. This year’s offering, “Kids Count Miracle Offering,” has both a hands-on and financial component.
The financial component goal of the 2017 Kids Count Miracle Offering is to raise $100,000 for grants for church-school partnerships and to help new worshipping congregations send the children in their target communities to our United Methodist camps. Eighty percent (80%) of the cash offering will go to support church-school partnerships and twenty percent (20%) will go to help our new churches send children and youth to camp.
Sioux Falls Wesley is one example of a church-school partnership. The goal of the hands-on component of the 2017 Kids Count Miracle Offering is to have 10,000 volunteer hours pledged for Kids Count Miracle Offering.
We invite you and your congregation to allow the Holy Spirit to break through your life and the lives of the children in your community by investing your time volunteering at your local school. There are many ways to volunteer at school reading to children, helping in classrooms, helping at a school event, assisting with a special school project, donating school supplies, creating or assisting with an afterschool program.
Churches will be asked to report on their volunteer efforts throughout the next year. Begin with completing your pledge card and bringing it to conference session in Bismarck.
All churches recently received a packet with materials (click to download: poster, pledge card, offering envelope, bulletin insert, letter from the Bishop) to help them promote the Kids Count Miracle Offering to their congregations. Please share this giving opportunity!