Hopewell church partners with elementary school for hurricane relief
By Madeline Pillow
What started as an outreach effort has grown into a partnership between one church and elementary school in Hopewell, Va.
Relief supplies were collected by members of Wesley UMC from students at Patrick Copeland Elementary School on Nov. 1.
The church had already been doing outreach at the school, particularly with faculty and staff, when the fourth grade teacher Amy Pipetti consulted with the principal to see what they could do to help survivors of Hurricane Matthew.
The Rev. Jacob Sahms
Because of their growing visibility within the school, Wesley UMC pastor Jacob Sahms was contacted to share ways they could help.
James River District Superintendent Rob Colwell had asked pastors to each bring a flood bucket to their charge conference. Sahms shared the flood bucket itemized list with Pipetti as an option for relief efforts. From there the project expanded past Pipetti’s fourth grade class to include the entire school and then finally it was shared with every student in Hopewell through the school board.
The school collected approximately 3,500 supplies items in about three weeks with Pipetti’s class creating a graph to chart the number of supplies brought in over that time period.
Throughout this time, Sahms has met with the class periodically and commented on their enthusiasm. “I’ve been able to visit with this class a few times and they just grow more and more excited seeing this chart grow,” said Sahms.
When it came time to load up vehicles with the collected supplies on Nov. 1, Pipetti’s fourth grade class was eager to take on the task and to show off their muscles in the process.
The collected supplies, including cleaning supplies, will now be placed within flood buckets, and clothes will be redistributed to those in need.
The beginning of a partnership
Wesley UMC in Hopewell began a visioning process in July of this year when Sahms started his new appointment there.
During this process, the church discussed their strengths and realized that many of these strengths were internally focused, aimed at taking care of people who were already part of the church. That’s when something called “The Blue Sky List” came to the table.
“This list was something the church had set aside if everything was going great that they could focus on questions like, 'How can we get involved?' and 'What more can we do?'” said Sahms.
Questions that were especially aimed at people outside of the church.
One of the first steps the church took to implement this list was by adopting Patrick Copeland Elementary School in Hopewell. The move has been met with excitement by church members with dozens donating supplies to the school and multiple groups helping feed the teachers and staff at the school.
Already, Sahms said, a relationship has formed.
“We’ve seen some of the teachers and their families show up at our church and come to our Trunk-or-Treat,” said Sahms. “The ability for people to see that we’re making connections and that we’re not just doing service but we’re serving with people and we’re making our community better, it’s really changed how the church sees itself.”
-Madeline Pillow is interim director of Communications and Advocate editor.
The fourth graders are ready for a photo-op after loading vehicles with the collected supplies.