General Synod service project to ‘Stuff the Pack’ for literacy
Composition notebooks to practice writing, pencils to complete homework and crayons to color in pictures of words. Attendees at the United Church of Christ’s biennial gathering in Cleveland are being asked to take the opportunity to be part of a unique service project, assembling donated backpacks with back-to-school supplies to help tackle the issue of literacy.
The UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries team is organizing and leading the service project “Stuff the Pack” during General Synod 2015, June 26-30 in Cleveland. Synod guests and delegates are being asked to help the church meet a goal of 1,000 donated bags that will be filled with school supplies by attendees/project volunteers. The project will also mark the culmination of the Reading Changes Lives all-church initiative to raise awareness about how illiteracy directly impacts a range of social justice issues.
“This is not only an educational service project, but it’s a service opportunity for people to take part in this initiative,” said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of UCC Justice and Witness Ministries.
Participants will have a chance to “Stuff the Pack” on three consecutive days, beginning on Friday, June 26 (5-7 p.m.), again on Saturday, June 27 (1:30-3:30 p.m.), and finally on Sunday, June 28 (9-11 a.m.).
Among the supplies that service project organizers are recommending participants bring for donation: Crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, folders, notebook paper and spiral notebooks, three-ring binders and hand sanitizer.
“All of these items are an important part of the elementary school learning process. Students who do not come to school with the appropriate supplies can become frustrated and have a difficult time in class,” said Angela Barnes, Reading Changes Lives project manager. “Our engagement in the service project is a way to support both students and teachers.”
Setting the atmosphere for learning starts with the necessary supplies, Barnes noted. Once collected, the items will be donated to local literacy programs and school systems throughout the Greater Cleveland area—one of the nation’s urban centers with the highest illiteracy rates.
Service projects have long been a component of General Synod that allows delegates and visitors to be part of community service work for a few hours during the gathering. In the past, participants could choose between multiple activities such as sorting food at a local food bank, visiting a retirement community, or donating blood to a blood bank. The process allows the wider church to show support for local agencies, and offer examples of what could happen if the participants took those ideas back to their own communities.
This year UCC members have a chance to support the Cleveland Metropolitan School system and local literacy groups.
“This is a project people at General Synod can have pride in,” Barnes said. “We’re hoping people will take part in the journey to end illiteracy.”
But the battle against illiteracy doesn’t end there.
“We are encouraging churches to continue the work of the initiative,” Jaramillo said. “There’s lots to do in your own community, and we’ve had many congregations who have been doing this for some time. We want them to share their stories and journeys with us through this service project.
“To eradicate illiteracy, it’s a lifetime commitment,” Jaramillo added. “So we are encouraging churches to continue the movement.”
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