Don’t be afraid. This column contains no request for donation, to sign up or attend. This is an action-free column, safe for you to read. Void of any plea for your support my writing offers instead, the opportunity to take pride in what your business, volunteer, school and religious community accomplished in one very gratifying weekend.
It was amazing and monumental, but went remarkably unnoticed. It is a fact that 1,800 children from across Hamilton County received clothing, shoes and school supplies without charge. The project, Tools For Schools, offers a complete package of necessities to families in need so that the first day of school is financially stress free for parents and kids. But how the team hands out supplies is what caught my attention. As significant as the shoes and No. 2 pencils are, the greater gift is the expression of love, dignity and compassion which is offered to each person walking through the door.
Jayne Slayton, director of the Merciful HELP Center on the campus of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is the mastermind behind the ginormous undertaking. She is the first to give credit to the 995 volunteers who make it all work. Her tireless efforts to serve as many and give as much will always be her trademark. Joining Jayne five years ago with the idea of a unique program was Pam Curtis, Jane Rees and Father Richard Doerr. The program they started now has some very special attributes.
Serving 1,800 children with parents in tow (or vice-versa) can create a very large crowd during a weekend event. To eliminate the herd mentality, each child is served by appointment and a volunteer “friend” shepherds them through the entire process. Long lines and waiting are miraculously eliminated.
The shoe department becomes an area which not only offers a brand new pair of shoes but a sincere message of love. In an effort to show ultimate compassion and Christ’s love, a volunteer washes the feet of each child. Not because they are dirty, but to share a message of appreciation for allowing the community to serve as Christ did, knowing their roles could be reversed at any point in the future.
After selecting a backpack, choosing a coat, learning how to make healthy snacks, receiving a library book to keep, picking up a stack of socks and underwear and getting something to eat, the day is not yet complete. Only after each family is given the opportunity to share any additional needs, ask for prayers and solidify a lasting connection with the volunteer friends they have met along the way is the mission considered accomplished.
Too many names of businesses, churches and people to list. But they know what they did, and now you do too.