Archive

Tag: BELL Camp

June 7, 2018
One afternoon during last year’s Vacation Bible School.

In the summer issue of Tapestry, which will be available around the church in a couple of weeks, we asked some of our children and youth the question: How are you going to stay close to God this summer?

Instead of asking you that question, I thought I’d suggest an answer I plan to consider: By focusing on stewardship.

Not the stewardship campaign, which each fall asks us to decide on the financial commitment we’ll make to God’s work in the year ahead. I’m not even talking about fulfilling that commitment during months when we may be out of town or focused on family time—although we hope you’ll do that, too.

As important as our financial commitment to God’s work is, there is more to stewardship than pledging and giving. God also asks us to give of our time and talent.

In the summer, our routines are disrupted. We may be distracted by travel, by the pool, by summer concerts, by more family time, even by the luxury of time just to relax. I’m pretty sure those welcome distractions can make it harder to fill some of our community’s ongoing needs. God’s call to serve during the summer months could be even more urgent than usual.

Here are some ways FPC folks could answer God’s call to be good stewards this summer.

  • Picnic with Westerly Hills families on Sunday, June 10, at 3 p.m. Food will be provided and all are welcome to this opportunity for fellowship at The Core Church, 2300 Alleghany Street.
  • Give the gift of life by donating blood when the Bloodmobile is here at the church on Sunday, June 10, from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Watch this video to hear what Parish Nurse Kristin Foster and member Alex Ayer have to say about this year’s blood drive, then sign up to give from our website.
  • Deliver sandwiches to the Men’s Shelter, 3410 Statesville Avenue, by 11:30 on Sunday mornings. You are also welcome to help distribute the sandwiches and have lunch with the men. Sign up online.
  • Help out with Vacation Bible School the week of June 25-28, 9 a.m.-noon. Contact Tammy Winchip, Director of Children’s Ministry.
  • Stay strong this summer by helping out at the Loaves & Fishes Pantry. The Pantry needs of volunteers who are able to lift loaded crates, to bend and stoop as needed, and to catch loaded crates coming down the delivery chute. Contact Mary Scott Peterson to learn more.
  • Stay strong, part two, involves three hours once a month to deliver furniture for someone transitioning out of homelessness into a safe, comfortable home. This happens on the second Saturday each month, 9 a.m. until noon. Not everything is heavy, so don’t stay away because you can’t lift a sofa. This is a great service and fellowship opportunity for middle school age youth through adult. Sign up online.
  • Experience the joy of helping our BELL scholars. For six weeks, June 18–July 25, we will host 60 young scholars (rising first through third graders). They will work on reading and math skills in the mornings, then experience a wide range of field trips and enrichment activities—yoga, Lego robotics, dance and swimming—in the afternoons. Your time and talent makes this possible. Sign up here.
  • Worship needs volunteers to serve as sound board operators during the 11 a.m. worship. You’ll receive training. Contact Jesse Hite.

Those are just a few of the immediate ways you can focus on stewardship this summer. Keep your eyes on the Now@FPC page on the website, which is continuously updated with more ways to serve your community and your church.

Oh, and for those weeks when you are out of town, you can also visit the lower right of any page on the website to keep your contributions up to date through the summer. And you can attend a church where you’re vacationing, as well as watch us on TV or via live streaming on the website.

I hope you’ll join me in an unofficial time-and-talent stewardship campaign this summer. If you give this a try, let me know how it works to keep you close to God.

~ The Reverend Pen Peery

August 7, 2017

Sixty precious scholars left our church campus a few weeks ago, and we are missing them! They brought such joy, energy and light into our church this summer.

I have volunteered with BELL in the past with my children. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the program and how it benefits the families with whom we partner at Westerly Hills. I know now that I didn’t have a clue. What I learned this summer blew my mind and made me so very proud to be a part of this program and our church.

First Presbyterian Church began hosting BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) six years ago. BELL is a national program, headquartered in Boston and started in 1992 by students at Harvard Law School. The program seeks to serve children in under-resourced communities by providing summer instruction and enrichment.

Each class of 20 scholars (rising K-3rd, so 60 total) begins the day with a hot breakfast, then participates in community time, where they learn about the BELL core values (learning, collaboration, respect and excellence.) Each class receives literacy and math instruction from certified teachers for the first half of the day, reinforced by First Presbyterian member tutors and speech therapists from Charlotte Speech and Hearing. After lunch and playground time, the scholars participate in enrichment activities, such as dance, Legos and science, coding, yola (language-based yoga practice), Reading with Rover, music, cooking, recreation, character education, art and swim lessons. Every Friday is reserved for education-based field trips. This year the scholars went to Dan Nicholas park, Carolinas Aviation Museum, the Charlotte Raptor Center, the play James and the Giant Peach, the Nature Museum and a performance by a magician.

Distracted by all the fun, the children seem to forget they are attending a little bit of school when they are at BELL.

Parent involvement in BELL is also a huge part of the program. Attendance is critical for success, so each family pays a $20 goodwill deposit that is refunded if the scholar misses no more than 3 days. Parents are also responsible for attending an open house and participating in a scholar showcase, where they visit the classrooms, attend an active reading workshop and eat lunch with their scholar. This year 37 families attended the scholar showcase. The scholars were SO excited to read with their parents, and the parents were hilarious pretending to be kids during the active reading workshop. We all know how important parent involvement and commitment are for a child’s success at school, and programs such as BELL help build that vital commitment.

Did you know the lack of learning during the summer causes up to 2/3 of the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers? According to statistics published by Read Charlotte (learn more at www.readcharlotte.org) 96% of third graders reading at grade level go on to graduate high school on time; third graders reading below grade level are four times more likely to drop out of school. At the end of 2016, 72.5% of Westerly Hills’s third graders were reading below grade level, the worst reading scores in all of CMS. 

Last year, our BELL scholars gained reading proficiency rather than backsliding during the summer. This year, our scholars gained again. Clearly, literacy is critical to the success of our city’s children, and this program is a way our church is having a direct, positive impact on the children of Westerly Hills.

Periodically, our BELL program receives a visit from the national Quality Assurance team to be observed and evaluated. Our program remains one of the best in the country, if not the best.  The QA team raved about the standards we set for our program and the amazing enrichment and field trips we offer. The wonderful BELL staff sets the same expectations for the scholars, and they rise to the occasion again and again.

This program requires significant time, money and commitment from our church, but it is so absolutely worth it.  If you have contributed to this amazing program, thank you! I hope you know how valuable that contribution is.  If you haven’t yet contributed, please consider doing so. It costs $1,500 per child to run this program, and we still need to raise money to cover the cost for this summer’s program. Any and every contribution helps to change the life of a child.

I saw just how much every little contribution matters this summer.

– Heather Herring, Child & Family Partnership Coordinator

July 21, 2016

bell scholar 5Our BELL Summer School Camp for 60 rising first through third graders from some of Charlotte’s most fragile neighborhoods concludes next Wednesday afternoon. I hope you can join us to celebrate this fifth year of partnering with BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life).

Before I tell you what to expect at our celebration, I want to tell you about the minds that were opened this summer, thanks to your contributions.

  • These energetic and enthusiastic youngsters have excelled in their morning studies, which centered around reading and math.
  • They’ve experienced yoga, science, Legos, cooking, art, music, character education and swimming lessons at the Dowd YMCA.
  • On Fridays, they’ve enjoyed field trips to Stowe Botanical Gardens, Concord Aquarium, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Knight’s Stadium, a play at Central Piedmont Community College and bowling.

What a rich summer you’ve made possible for these children!

I want you to know that these children weren’t the only ones who have had their minds opened this summer. In addition to volunteer tutors from our congregation, this program brings together Speech and Hearing therapists, certified teachers and classroom assistants. If they are like me, they’ve had their minds and hearts opened during our six weeks with our BELL scholars. We’ve been blessed by their smiles, their laughter, their spontaneous hugs, and the light in their eyes as they’ve had experiences that some of us might take for granted in our own children’s lives.

I’d love for you to experience a fraction of what I’ve experienced from being around these children this summer. So please consider joining the scholars and staff for a celebration in the Wood Fellowship Hall from 1:00 – 2:15 pm on Wednesday, July 27.  Each class will perform a song or skit and we’ll show a video capturing our summer. Awards will be given and ice cream will conclude the event.

Thank you for your participation, prayers and financial contributions.  The lives of the most fragile in our city were made abundantly richer! And if you join us for the closing ceremony, I can pretty much guarantee that your life will be made richer, too.

~ Lisa Dillard, Community Engagement Coordinator

Look for more photos from our BELL Summer Scholars in this week’s issue of FirstNEWS             in the mail or on information tables at church on Sunday.

July 12, 2016

Chef Nick gets hugsReading everything that’s been done and said about last week’s events has been hard. Everywhere I’ve looked, people were discussing the hard topics of racial inequality, police violence, and hate-filled retaliation.

Being a member of a now multi-racial family, I struggled with my own assessment of these topics, mixed along with the idea of white privilege and how it relates to my life. All of this led me to also assess my effectiveness in being a good witness through my presence with and feeding of our BELL campers, who are here to keep learning throughout the summer. How, I wondered, was I perceived by these children?

Needless to say, by Friday afternoon these thoughts left me a little deflated, a little drained, as serious thought tends to do.

Then something happened that filled me back up.

While I was standing at the front desk having a conversation about finances with a coworker, one of our campers walked by to go to the restroom. She walked right up to me and spontaneously hugged my leg. This reminded me that our actions truly do have an impact when they are motivated with love.  We need to fill each other up with love in these difficult times.

We need more hugs.

– Nick Kepp

P.S. A high-five (see below) isn’t a bad option, either.

Chef Nick gets high 5

July 1, 2016

“You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…in the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

BELL 2016 little sisterIf you want to see what church looks like when we are really being church, come to the campus of First Presbyterian the first six weeks of the summer.

We are about halfway through hosting the BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) program – a tutoring initiative that provides experiences in the classroom and the uptown community for 60 students from the K-8th grade Westerly Hills Academy, with whom our church has a partnership.

These six weeks our campus is buzzing: in the courtyard at drop-off, in the Wood Fellowship Hall for breakfast, on the third floor for classes, and through the hallways as children make this church their home.

Additionally, in the summer our church also makes a commitment to send children to Camp Grier for a total of 65 camper weeks.

Our summer program is one of the finest examples of where our faith and our stewardship become salt and light in our community. These programs make an impact. Reading scores go up. Parents are more plugged in. Children grow in confidence. And God is glorified.

We’re about halfway through the summer and our fundraising for BELL and Camp Grier (total of $60,000) is about halfway finished, too. Whether you are a member of First Presbyterian or a fan, I encourage you to help us make a difference in the lives of dozens of children by supporting this vital ministry of the church.

– Pen Peery