For the fourth year in a row, the Ellet Grace Brethren Church in Akron, Ohio (Jonathon Carey, pastor) set out to bless the elementary school next door, Ritzman Community Learning Center, a K-5 elementary school in the Akron public school district. (Classes start this week for the 22,000-student district.)
The church opened their doors on Sunday afternoon (August 25) for the We Care Ritzman Back-to-School Extravaganza, welcoming students and their parents with a variety of opportunities and free services, according to Beckie Gurnish, who heads up the effort. Among the final numbers:
- 120 backpacks filled with school supplies were distributed. (“Our highest number yet,” says Beckie.)
- 70 haircuts within two hours by seven volunteer stylists.
- 200 Sno-Cones served.
Ritzman’s principal, Larry Bender, again faced down his students at the flush machine. “The kids loved it,” she adds.
Lunch was available, served by Beckie’s daughter-in-law, Rachel Gurnish, and her volunteer staff.
There were door prizes for the moms and dads who accompanied the children. “Every parent walked away a winner, as we had prizes ranging from cones at the local custard stand to gift certificates for gas, restaurants, and a local business that sells school uniforms,” Beckie reports.
Area businesses also contributed to the event, a tribute to the reputation the church has garnered for being a good neighbor. “Many of the businesses told us they recognize the good work we are doing in the community,” Beckie says. “In fact, we recently had to buy a new refrigerator for the church. We bought it at a local dealer who gave us a nice discount and free delivery because we are good community people.”
While the day was focused on meeting the physical needs of students, it was bathed in prayer. “I always make up teacher bags for those who come,” says Beckie, who is a retired educator. “This year I told them we would be praying for them during the school year and I actually got to pray with one of them.”