Disciples in Action School Support Team receives Governor's Service Award
Members of Disciples in Action School Support Team are, kneeling, from left, Judy Koch, Robin Byers, Jerry Norris, Ben Goodrich and Samantha Rowe. Standing from left are Jay Koch, Tiffany Bricker, Brock Bricker, Brenda Plummer, John Beck, Teresa Beck, Courtney Barnett and Judy Geary. (Submitted photo)
Members of Disciples in Action School Support Team are, kneeling, from left, Judy Koch, Robin Byers, Jerry Norris, Ben Goodrich and Samantha Rowe. Standing from left are Jay Koch, Tiffany Bricker, Brock Bricker, Brenda Plummer, John Beck, Teresa Beck, Courtney Barnett and Judy Geary.
by TAYLOR ECKEL
One winter in the mid-1990s, Tajah Sprecher experienced something she said she will never forget.
Sprecher said she had accompanied her daughter to outdoor school, and one of the children on the trip did not have a sleeping bag or a coat.
Sprecher said she was aware that some of the children at Lincolnshire Elementary were underprivileged but it had never made a big impression on her.
"It really hit home when we went to outdoor school in the winter," she said. "That one little kid that didn't have a coat ... it just touches your heart."
Sprecher said the memory of the child without a coat was the inspiration for forming the Disciples in Action School Support Team at her church, First Christian Church in Hagerstown in 2005.
The Disciples in Action School Support Team of First Christian Church has been awarded the 2011 Governor's Service Award for faith-based groups. According to the Governor's Office on Service and Volunteerism, the Governor's Service Awards are given to "recognize significant contributions of Maryland citizens to the life and health of the State and its people."
Sprecher is co-leader of the school support team with Robin Byers. Sprecher said that First Christian Church received an anonymous donation and formed a committee to determine how to best utilize it. Sprecher was a member of a Bible-study group involved in the committee.
"(Our) group decided we were interested in being the hands and feet of God instead of just donating money," Byers said.
She said Sprecher suggested that their Bible-study group address the need for clothing and school supplies at Lincolnshire Elementary. A year later, the team began working with Eastern Elementary as well.
"We wanted to supply kids with necessities like school supplies and coats," said Sprecher. "It's blossomed from there. We have church members and family members who help out."
Byers said the team delivers school supplies twice a year, and they provide clothing on an ongoing basis. The team also works with the school staff to meet specific needs for individuals. In an effort to preserve the privacy of families in need, Sprecher said the team only works with the school staff.
Byers said the team shops for clothes and school supplies at end-of-season sales and yard sales, and they also accept donations of gently used clothing, shoes and winter coats. She said on most weekends, she and her husband scour the clearance racks of local stores for clothing and school supplies.
"We have a small budget at the church, we have people who donate, and we have gotten some small grants locally though different foundations and stores," Byers said.
The past three years the team has "adopted" about 30 students for Christmas, Byers said. The school staff provides the team with student wish lists as well as their clothing sizes and shoe sizes. Team members and their families provide gifts for the children.
The school support team has also donated rewards for Eastern Elementary's Behavior Incentive Program, said Vannessa Mannick, family liaison at Eastern Elementary.
"They recently donated 108 books for children in need to read over the summer," she said.
"Eastern Elementary is so grateful for their assistance and is a personal witness to the benefit of the program. It is rewarding to see a child without a winter coat, receive a new coat or when a child comes to school without any socks provided with new ones and a bagful to take home," Mannick wrote in her nomination of the school support team.
"As a school community, we're grateful for what they provide for our children," said Nicole Paylor, acting co-principal of Eastern Elementary.
Sprecher said the most rewarding part of her work with the team is hearing stories of how their donations have helped families in need.
"It's a demonstration of our faith," she said. "It's doing what we believe Jesus Christ was put on this Earth to do, and we're doing His work."
Byers said the team hopes that the clothing and school supplies they donate will help children feel better about themselves.
"I think it's been a blessing to us," she said, "because it's a joy to know you can help the community in this way. "
For more information about Disciples in Action Support Team, call 301-733-0144.