Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles from 2010, click here.

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Bringing Hope to IPS

Written by Kiel Kinnaman

On a chilly Saturday morning in November, hundreds of people huddled in the Grace Community Church parking lot to worship, pray, and go out into the community to participate in over 100 projects. These people would be the first of over 3,800 people to participate in Grace’s third annual Weekend of Service.

Ralph W. Emerson School #58 has continually served students on the east side for over 100 years.

The Weekend of Service was born out of a challenge for the attendees of Grace Community Church to live out one of its core values, “to launch people into God’s Kingdom revolution.” And with that, dozens of families packed up their minivans with children, baked goods, cleaning supplies, donated books, paint brushes, and headed down to Ralph W. Emerson IPS School #58. The families at this school were just one of the teams for Grace’s Weekend of Service.

As the families pulled into the parking lot of the school, they were greeting by Grace Team Leaders Ann Stone and Mary Estrada of Grace Kids Company. Many of these families are active in Zone 2/3 which serves the second and third graders of Grace Community Church.

Anticipation was in the air as families made their way down to the gym where they would meet their respective team leaders and begin their projects. Before work began, however, the families were greeted by School #58’s principal, Vicky Kelly.

“I want to thank you all for being here today. Only a few staff know what’s going on here today, so I think they’re going to be pleasantly surprised on Monday.”

Grace staff member, Mary Estrada, gives instruction to the volunteers who would spend the day cleaning IPS School #58.

As groups began to split up, I began to walk around the school to see what was going on.

When you walk through School #58, you’ll notice that it has a lot of character. Built in 1908, it has three levels, wood flooring, chalk boards, and built-in wooden bookshelves with glass doors. The school has been updated throughout the years with carpet being installed and some other minor things, but for the most part, it still has that old school charm. The school currently serves over 400 students from the surrounding east side neighborhood.

Having gone back and forth between public schools and private schools growing up, I was surprised at the lack of amenities compared to what the suburban schools have.  Throughout the school, I noticed how much of an emphasis School #58 put on reading. However, going down to the library I couldn’t help but notice how small their library was compared to the library I used as a student in Washington Township Schools.

“Being so old, this school is a little worse off than other schools in IPS,” said Principal Kelly. “We’re going to be renovated a year from now, so once we get renovated, our library will be nice.”

Notes of encouragement, such as this one, were part of the cookie trays that volunteers put together for School #58 teachers and staff.

I was very encouraged that where the library lacked, teachers tried to make up for it by stocking their rooms with books. In the gym, teams were busy building bookshelves and using glue to decorate them with various patterns. It was fun to watch the kids smear glue everywhere as anxious parents came behind them with a damp cloth to wipe off the excess glue. In another corner of the gym, Becca Wilds and Jan Perrigin were busy organizing books donated to the school through the efforts of Zone 2/3.

While the bookshelves were being built and donated books being sorted, there were teams of families going from room to room helping to clean. Brothers and sisters were wiping down desks, while parents were helping to organize the bookshelves.

Rick and Julie Santiago were busy cleaning classrooms with their two boys, one of whom, is a student at Heritage Christian School. When I asked him how it felt to help students his own age, he said that it “felt good” and he enjoyed it.

Out of the many projects included painting murals throughout the school.

“I’d love to see Grace do this twice a year, there seems to be such a great need,” said Rick.

Down in the kitchen, the Johnson family was helping to put together “thank you” cards that were to be attached to treat plates for the staff of School #58, over 30 treat plates were put together which included cookies, brownies, and other goodies.

As I walked through the hallways and saw people painting, cleaning, working together, a quote from Mother Teresa kept resounding in my mind, “We can do no great things; we can do only small things with great love.”

Sometimes people think that to be “the hands and feet of Jesus” means that we only need to feed the homeless and clothe the poor. Or to really make a difference, we have to send a family off on vacation while we rebuild their house in seven days. Both of those are great and noble things, but we can continue to do small things which can also have immeasurable impact.

Grace middle school student Alex helps by painting the image of an eagle at IPS School #58.

And that’s what I got out of my day at School #58. These Grace families were being the hands and feet of Jesus to these educators and students. For the overworked teacher who has spent all weekend grading papers, she will come back to a clean classroom on Monday. To the student who was looking for that perfect book to read, he’ll find it on the new bookshelves. For the custodial staff who have been working so hard to keep the school clean, they’ll have a cookie tray with thank you notes (and hopefully a little less to clean for now).

Wrapping up the day, I felt a great sense of hope for School #58. In a small way, our church helped and will continue to provide help. In the next couple years, the school will be renovated which will provide a new library, among other things. I was also filled with hope that those who volunteered would see a need to be involved with IPS or even their local school.

As I saw how well everyone worked together at IPS, I realized, “we’re all in this together.”

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Next Steps
    • Uniforms are always needed and appreciated (khaki, blue, black pants with red, white, blue collared shirts). People wishing to donate can do so by contacting any IPS school or by contacting the main IPS office.
    • School supplies are another need. The most effective way to do this is to participate in the various “Backpack Blast” events that occur in late July and early August prior to the school year starting.
    • For those who want to work directly with the kids, after school tutoring is available at various IPS schools and at Shepherd Community Center on East Washington Street.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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Comments

  1. Jim M. said... 

    Reply

    November 12th, 2010 at 1:09 am  

    Kiel, Nice story. Principal Kelly is a unique educator, the school sounds awesome, reminds me of where I started “wooden floors…” brought back memories.

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