Love School Benefits From Local Church Volunteers

First Presbyterian Church parishioner, Stephanie Dawson, helps Love Elementary School student, Julieaury Diaz Rosa, with her homework.

Love Elementary School is lucky to have neighborhood church volunteers who are so willing to give their time to help our students. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, First Covenant Church and First Presbyterian Church all provide volunteers who help Love students by tutoring, doing fun activities, reading with students, and just being a friend and role model to kids.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church helps out Love School in two ways: through a summer reading camp called “Children of the Book” and project-based mentoring program through Chautauqua Striders.

The summer reading camp began in 2015 and St Luke’s worked with Principal Renee Hartling to focus on engaging Love students with parishioners and local community members to partner-read with children during the important summer months. There are 100 volunteers that work at the St. Luke’s Summer Reading camp Monday through Friday, with about 60 parishioners and 40 community members reading one-on-one with the focus on Love students but open to all students. St. Luke’s also provides food for the students, field trips and community members highlighting their special skills such as origami.

St. Luke’s Church wanted to expand its volunteering at Love School this year by also involving 14 parishioners in a project-based mentoring program through Chautauqua Striders. Once a week for an hour and a half, St. Luke’s mentors listen and offer support, help build confidence and character, expand their mentee’s universe and help them navigate through everyday life situations.

“At St. Luke’s we view the children of Love School as OUR children. As a parent, priest and a Striders Mentor, I have witnessed first-hand how the children from Love respond to our concerted and constant love,” said Rev. Luke F. Fodor, Rector, St. Luke’s Church. “Many of them have faced so many traumas that they have come to believe that they are not worthy. We are committed to showing them that they are worthy of love. The children of Love … are OUR love children. Through our mentoring program and the Children of the Book Summer reading program we are demonstrating that love is an action.”

First Covenant Church volunteers visit the school Monday through Thursdays at lunchtime meeting with first through third grade students. There are currently 10 volunteers. The volunteers talk with the students, help with homework and read with the kids. The reading program is one-on-one and the volunteers get as much out of it as the students.

“I really want the kids to have the best chance that they can get and if I can even be a little help in that I want to be,” said First Covenant Church volunteer Diane Olmstead. “We aren’t their bosses but just a friend.”

“When I left the YMCA for Chautauqua Institution, I wanted to continue to work on a piece of the Y’s passion and volunteering to read at the school with the kids fills that passion for me,” said First Covenant Church volunteer Meg Pickard.

First Presbyterian Church volunteers are helping out the Love After School Amigos program. Students travel to First Presbyterian Church each Wednesday where they receive a snack, get help with their homework through tutoring, and read and journal for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, students get “choice time” in the gym, learning center or games. There are 20 volunteers working with kids one-on-one.

“They are fun,” said Love Elementary School fourth grader, Christopher Irizarry. “There is a lot of stuff we do with them and they really help us by being tutors and helping us with our homework. It gets done before we get home. They are also very nice to us.”

“It’s a win-win situation for us,” said Judy Kullberg, coordinator for the First Presbyterian Church program. “Both the tutor and the child get so much out of it. These are our neighbors and we want to help out our neighbors.”