Illinois church combines faith, education with back-to-school giveaway
The month of August is usually a time when parents and children get ready for the start of another year of school — a time to stock up on pencils and notebooks and prepare for that first day. In that spirit, a first-year congregation of the United Church of Christ in suburban Chicago is inviting the community to a back-to-school musical and picnic, with a number of free services to ready community kids for class.
“Jammin’ For Jesus” is Grace United Church of Christ’s back-to-school event on Aug. 22. The church in Sauk Village, Ill., will help with school supplies for the upcoming year, and offer free physical examinations and haircuts. The congregation also plans to give away 100 backpacks stuffed with school supplies donated by members and vendors.
“Everything we do is about trying to let people know we are here, and that we are aware of people’s educational needs and spiritual needs,” said the Rev. Melody Seaton, pastor of Grace UCC.
“I ran the idea of a back-to-school event by the music department and they thought to make it a music event,” she added. “In addition to music, we have members affiliated with a sorority who arranged a medical truck for physicals, we made contact with a barber school to send students to give kids a fresh haircut before they start school, and we are going to feed everyone.”
Seaton has been a devoted educator throughout her career and has a passion for learning, which helped inspire the event. She also knew that because Grace UCC is a new church start in the Eastern Association of the Illinois Conference (now with 44 members after almost a year), it had to reach out the community to grow its mission and membership.
“We knew coming into the community that we needed to do something to attract people and let them know we are here. One of the first things we did was an event called ‘Share the Warmth,’ to give jackets to children,” Seaton said. “I know a lot of children who don’t have the tools they need, in terms of clothing for the winter. So we came up with about $3,500 to provide coats for children in 75 classrooms.”
While this is the first year of “Jammin’ for Jesus,” the congregation is eager to see the turnout and learn how they might improve the event for the future. “Our doors are open,” Seaton said. “Everything we do is inspiration from God.”
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