First UMC, Newark, Eases Back-to-School Transition

Since 2004, First United Methodist Church, Newark, has donated school supplies to students in the community. Through the years, the outreach has expanded to a community fair to include services such as haircuts, health screenings, school uniforms and a brown-bag meal.

This fair became a mission outreach project for the church and community to get to know each other and to invite the community to become a part of First Church. There began a shift from a transactional to a transformative relationship.

When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued the stay-at-home order as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, First Church decided to continue this ministry for the students. Under the leadership of the associate pastor, Rev. Barbara Salyers, the team at First Church pivoted and recreated this important service.

On Aug. 15, First Church held a “Drive-Thru Backpack and School Supply Giveaway.” During this event, 15 volunteers distributed donations to each vehicle as people drove up. Social distancing was honored. With donations from over 50 members of First Church, more than 300 backpacks filled with school supplies were ready for elementary, middle and high school students. Contents of the backpacks were based on a supply list provided by the Newark City School District. Leftovers from the event were divided and given directly to the schools.

Working directly with the school district, the church has also volunteered to assist any students who need uniforms.

Newark City schools, students and families were grateful for the support in this season of uncertainty. One gesture of appreciation came in a thank-you note that said, “On behalf of the students and staff of Wilson Middle School, we wish to thank you for your generous gift of backpacks and school supplies. Your continued support and generosity are greatly appreciated.”

First Church answered the call to adjust a ministry so members could continue to support their neighbors and show what it means to live in transformational relationship.