200K More Reasons recently granted $2,000 to Vilonia United Methodist Church for its summer feeding ministry and reading program. This mission continues the church’s weekly Wednesdays at the Well program, which involves picking up children in the neighborhoods surrounding the church to serve them dinner, teach them bible lessons and return them home with a snack bag to help with food insecurity while they are out of school during the summer. The reading program incorporates volunteers to help the children participating by listening to them read or reading to them if they don’t know how or are too young to read yet. The children participating in this mission can choose books and take them home to enjoy and, hopefully, begin or add to their own library.
During summer 2023, Vilonia United Methodist Church will add another ministry, so they are in contact with the children enrolled in the feeding and reading mission. This will allow the church members and volunteers to stay in contact with the participating children twice each week to provide more food as well as reading opportunities.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we went to the community and handed out brown bags of food along with bible lesson activity sheets,” said Donna Lewis with Vilonia United Methodist Church. “During spring break, we did this again but also took books for the children to pick out and keep at home.”
The 200K More Reasons grant will help fund food for dinner, sack lunches, snack bags and books. “We think the reading portion of this mission will help with the ‘summer slide’, which is where students regress in their reading levels due to lack of reading during the summer,” Lewis continued. “The children participating in our mission also are involved in shopping and selecting food. They love to help carry the groceries to the snack room.”
Lewis says a few of the neighborhoods close to Vilonia United Methodist Church are populated by low-income families in rental homes, and several of the children are raised by a single parent or grandparent. This ministry allows the congregation and volunteers to get to know the children’s families, thereby, reaching out to those in which the church shares community.
“We live among these children, and this ministry gives us the chance to feed them, teach them about God and becoming disciples for Jesus,” Lewis said. “It also allows us to help with their education and learning through our reading program and gives them a sense of belonging at Vilonia United Methodist Church. We want them to feel at home here and know they are loved.”
Currently, the summer feeding ministry and feeding program serves 20-35 children, tweens and youth each week. Vilonia United Methodist Church hopes to add 100 percent of the participating children in the feeding ministry to its reading program.
“We feel that encouraging the love of reading impacts school performance in all subjects and that children gain confidence and expand their knowledge by reading different genres, such as fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc.,” Lewis said.