The Kirk, McDonald’s Give Students Back-to-School Head Start
The back-to-school shopping season may be in full swing with parents scrambling for parking spaces in crowded malls and others searching for the best buys – but for 200 students in the Bain and Grants Town communities the supplies and words of wisdom about education were as close as their neighbourhood church this week. On August 23, students and parents gathered in the Sir Geoffrey Johnstone Hall of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk where the church and McDonald’s restaurants partnered for the annual back-to-school event.
“For the eight years we’ve done this there has been a huge need. I don’t want to pretend that we’re fully meeting the needs of the community but we are one congregation trying to do our part and make a difference in the lives of 200 people,” said Reverend Bryn MacPhail. “We feel like whether the economy is strong or weak there will always be people in need and we stand ready to assist.”
The outreach to the Bain and Grants Town community stems from the fact that it is the closest constituency to the church, which sits on Shirley Street on top Peck’s Slope just a stone’s throw away from the inner city.
The school bags donated by McDonald’s contain the basic essentials such as: notebooks, pens, pencils and rulers. Younger students receive scissors, glue and crayons while older students get highlighters, pencil crayons and calculators. Church members and the popular fast food-restaurant chain pick up the tab for supplies. Each bag carries a value of around $45 to $50 worth of goods.
“When we started this initiative eight years ago, no students from the Bain and Grants Town community were a part of this church. Now, we fill a bus every Sunday with children from the community who are a part of our Sunday school,” said MacPhail whose church hosts others events for the neighborhood children and sponsors trips for students to attend Camp Bahamas in Eleuthera.
“We have a lot of touch points throughout the year. We are not just here to make ourselves feel good once a year. We do several things all year every year. We are vested for the long haul.”
At Thursday’s back-to-school event, which catered to 150 students packed into the church’s hall, McDonald’s provided lunch in addition to the sturdy backpacks. The church uses word of mouth to find those in need of the remaining 50.
“When the decision was made as a church to give back to the community, that’s in line with our corporate values so our involvement was a no-brainer for me,” said church elder Earla Bethel, president of DanBrad, which holds the McDonald’s franchise for New Providence.
“There will always be a need. What we are doing is only a small dent for a small number of people but based on the trajectory of the church we will be doing more in the very near future.”
McDonald’s also provides school bags to outreach programmes in the three other constituencies in which it operates as well as to a church on Market Street.
“For some of these families they don’t have the financial resources to buy books and pens, or a bag for school. For their parents who cannot afford to provide them with the essential resources that they need for school this helps that parent or that family. To be impacting lives in a positive way is amazing and if we only impact one life then it’s worth it.”
One student who has missed only one of the back-to-school events in the eight years it has been held is hard-working 12th grader Brian Selestin. Accompanying him to this year’s event were his 12-year-old and 3-year-old sisters.
“Life isn’t hard for me but the free school supplies take a little stress off my mother’s back,” said the 16-year-old who earns extra cash as a grocery store packing boy and from the occasional construction job to assist his mom in buying supplies for himself and his sisters. “She doesn’t have to worry as much about back-to-school shopping. We appreciate it.”