It’s the Little Things: South Carolina Church Builds Trust with Local School
By Kim Ousley
St. Andrew Church of God of Camden, South Carolina, offered to feed all the teachers and staff at a local elementary in the community on January 31. West Lee Elementary School and Principal Veronica Bradley welcomed the gracious gesture.
Pastor Scott Hodge says he’s been with St. Andrew Church of God for over four years now. His wife Susan and Ann Hasty have also been involved in the congregation getting connected to the school, which is a part of their neighborhood.
“The first year we started approaching them, but they had a different principal at the time,” said Hodge. “They were kind of reluctant in the past and leery of churches, [thinking] there are strings attached.”
Hodge explained to them their intentions had no strings attached, that the church just wanted to do something nice. It wasn’t him that reached out, but someone in the congregation who simply offered to purchase a National Geographic subscription for the school. “That was like the foot in the door that helped us to be able to offer more,” said Pastor Hodge.
The church began by giving away coffee mugs with Starbucks gift cards in them. The biggest event to date was the luncheon provided all by volunteers of the church. They fixed all the food and set it up buffet-style in a room where teachers could come and go, since their schedules vary.
Ann Hasty, liaison between the church and the school, said they had originally planned to do the luncheon at Christmastime. Due to a small COVID outbreak, the event was postponed until the end of January. “We called it the 100th Day of School Celebration instead.”
Hasty, a retired social worker, had moved to the country but still wanted to remain active in the community. She approached the guidance counselor first, then the principal, Dr. Veronica Bradley, to share what the church would like to do to bless the teachers. The church provided the warmers and the crockpots, and the menu was determined, as well which room would be used.
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, gravy, and rolls were served with plenty of desserts. According to Hasty, many of the staff came back for seconds. One thing to note, according to Hodge, is that the school district is 65-percent minorities in composition, and that includes the staff at the school. Gaining their trust took time and consistency.
Other projects initiated by the church include a school supplies drive and painting the front doors of the school (the sun causes fading). Hasty helps landscape the front of the building to add a touch of beauty and nature for the school.
So, what else is the church doing to bless their community?
“Spring Hill Community Center is a little community center out here in the country,” said Pastor Hodge. “We’re going to try and find some drivers for Meals on Wheels to deliver for the month of March. We’re also planning to do some spring cleaning soon, since the staff centers around the elderly senior community. “It’s an extension of our Council on Aging here in Lake County.”
In a very practical sense, St. Andrew Church of God knows they must live what they preach.
“I’m preaching from James right now,” Hodge continues, “so when you say faith means action, many people are like, ‘OK, that’s great, but what kind of action?’ So the church needs to provide those examples of opportunities so that they might see some sort of similar opportunity that will help them decide where they can help.”
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.