Columbus congregation stocks school clinic
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Thanks to generous children and a congregation that cares, Columbus’ Allen Elementary School is stocked with necessary clinic supplies for the entire school year.
The creative mission project was part of Epworth United Methodist Church’s focus during Vacation Bible School this summer, but the response was so strong that it was extended into June and July.
Children and church members donated sandwich bags, adhesive bandages, tissues, cotton balls, hand sanitizer, and small paper cups to the school. They’ll be used in Allen Elementary School’s clinic, which is one of 57 in the Muscogee County School District. The church collected so many supplies that some will be sent to other school’s clinics.
Chronically short on funds to purchase necessary medical supplies, the Muscogee County School District, like many in the state, relies on donations from individuals and companies to meet its needs.
“We have such a limited budget for clinic supplies, I did a happy dance when I heard they were doing this,” said Darlene Shirley, lead nurse for Muscogee County Schools. “I am always begging and asking for donations. You don’t really think about all that kids need in the course of a day.”
The county serves more than 31,000 students and school nurses dispense more than 15,000 doses of medication each month, Shirley said.
So when Epworth UMC learned of the supply shortage they saw an easy opportunity to help those close to home.
“People were surprised to learn about the need,” said Rev. Tony Crosby, pastor of Epworth UMC. “I don’t think people realize it’s a need, and when they knew about it, they didn’t hesitate to bring stuff in.”
Nearly half of the children who attend Epworth UMC also attend Allen Elementary School, which is about a five-minute walk from the church. The mission project was one that the youth and children could understand, Rev. Crosby said.
“When we say we’re helping our school, they know what that means,” he said.
The church is a mission-minded congregation, intentional about teaching children, youth, and adults the importance of serving others, Rev. Crosby said. It has a different mission focus each month; participates with several charities including Wynnton Neighborhood Network, SafeHouse for the homeless at Rose Hill United Methodist Church, Open Door Community House, and the Methodist Home for Children and Youth, among others; and is a Partner in Education with Allen Elementary School.
Last year children donated items and assembled health kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), but once the kits left Columbus the children didn’t know where the kits went or how they’d be used.
This year, they were excited to help their own school, said Dawn Wilson, Epworth UMC’s children’s ministry director.
“They knew where the supplies were going,” she said. “I think it’s important that kids grow up learning to give and be charitable … . I think if you plant the seeds early they will grow.”
Shirley said that Muscogee County isn’t the only school district that could use this kind of help.
“I don’t know of a single school district that has everything they need,” she said. “It certainly has blessed us and has made a huge difference already.”
Giving back to the community is part of loving and serving like Jesus, Rev. Crosby said.
“We just want to be a good neighbor and to show that we love our neighbor,” he said. “We want to do good to bring glory to God, and we try to teach that missions is an important part of following Jesus. Children learn by doing.”