As they have done for the past 12 years, students, faculty, staff members, parents and even grandparents got together recently for Project Faith, an outreach program for Faith Christian School in southwest Roanoke County.
More than 600 volunteers donated over 2,500 hours of service. “All of the organizations were thrilled with the work we did,” said Susan Childs, Marketing & Public Relations Director for the K-12 school that has grown from a church basement home to a 300-plus student campus in just over a decade.
Students in every grade take part; this year older students were paired off with some of the younger ones for a day of painting, cleaning, landscaping and repairing at non-profit organizations all over town. Project Faith is also the major fundraiser for the school; the goal was to raise $175,000 and Childs said they were headed towards $190,000 or more by the time all the money comes in from sponsors.
During the school year students write letters to local businesses, friends and family, asking them to sponsor their day of service to the community. Much of the supplies used – like $3000 of paint given by a local Sherwin-Williams distributor – were donated for Project Faith.
“A lot of people in the community really donate mightily to this,” said Childs. Food, cleaning materials and supplies for children collected at the school before the Project Faith day of service were given to some of the non-profits after a final wrap-up assembly
The best year ever yielded $197,000 but Childs said, “We may beat that record” by the time all the checks come in. At an assembly the week after the Project Faith service day, representatives from some of the organizations that benefited spoke to the students about what that help meant to them. Childs said several were emotional on stage as they spoke. “They were very moved, watching the kids come to work.”
Feeding America, the Salvation Army (three locations), Manna Ministries, Acts 2 Ministries, Turning Point women’s shelter, the Red Shield Lodge for men and the Blue Ridge Women’s Shelter all welcomed Project Faith. “Even grandparents – they were working like crazy,” noted Childs. At Manna Ministries in Vinton and at the Red Shield Lodge students painted murals on outside walls.
Classrooms at the Turning Point shelter were brightened up with paintings done by students. Fathers built new walls; at Feeding America more than 4700 lbs of food were processed, made ready for shipment to needy families all over southwestern Virginia – more than 3700 meals worth of preparation.
Childs said Feeding America told her that might be a record for one-day food preparation. “Our partnership with Faith Christian School reinforces the idea that engaging our youth in volunteerism… ensures that our communities become places where all families thrive and have access to opportunities they need to secure our children’s success,” said Robert Rogers, Volunteer Coordinator with Feeding America.
Sam Cox, the headmaster at Faith Christian, said Project Faith is more than a fundraiser: “[it instills] a love of community service in our children. Each year the students look forward to participating in this important event in the life of our school.”
Some of the older students even cleaned out transport vans, taking seats out in some cases. The Salvation Army store was reorganized. There’s no shortage of projects out there, as local non-profits struggle to stay afloat and after 12 years on the job Childs said Faith Christian School is more organized for their special day every year. “The payoff for [the non-profits] was big, and for us too, just in terms of getting to serve our community. We really try to [make students aware] it’s really about the day of service.”
By Gene Marrano