As a small group formed a circle just outside the front doors of Hutchins Elementary Wednesday afternoon, the Rev. Richard Young prayed for its staff, students and their families.
Over the past two years, volunteers have served as prayer angels for this elementary campus that is located just across the street from First United Methodist Church. Spearheaded by the neighboring church, Christ Lutheran also joined the Hutchins’ Heroes ministry, also known as Hutchins’ Young Champions, to “demonstrate the love of God to the Hutchins community,” Young said.
Volunteers will not only be praying for individuals throughout the school year, but will also be mentoring children through reading programs and tutoring.
“In addition, we offer spiritual and emotional support to the teachers and staff at Hutchins Elementary,” Young said.
Parishioners will have the opportunity to adopt a teacher and pray for them as well as offer them words of encouragement throughout the school year.
“We will be praying for them by name,” Young said. “We will send notes of encouragement, such as holiday greeting cards and honor them on their birthday and anniversary. We want them to know ‘I am praying for you.’”
The idea for Hutchins’ Heroes stems from several events that took place starting in early 2019. Young’s wife, Ruth, had been killed in a car wreck in January 2019, and Hutchins Elementary reached out to him and the church.
“They came ... teachers and staff ... and they prayed for us,” Young said. “They surrounded our building. Each child wrote a note.”
Young was touched by the kind gestures.
He later attended a workshop that focused on ministry, to “look at the needs around you,” he said. “Where might God be calling you to minister outside your church walls?”
So he thought to himself, “Hey, the school is next door. Also, Hutchins had just had a fathers’ program .... they invited the men to be a part of the kids lives. It impressed me that this was a way to help them (students) grow and learn and be secure in our community.”
Still Young asked himself, “How can we be an influence for our neighbors? So it (Hutchins’ Heroes) came out of these two events.”
In the past, the group of volunteers sponsored the school’s field day activities. They also rented a snow cone machine and wore specially made t-shirts that read: “We Love Hutchins Kids.”
First UMC also added a picnic area underneath a large oak tree on the church grounds next to the school where teachers can hold outdoor class activities or just enjoy sitting there during their lunch break.
Both churches are still in the process of recruiting volunteers. So far there are 31 teachers and staff members who have signed up to participate. While last year some activities were limited because of COVID-19, and now with the Delta variant on the rise, the churches and school are working out the logistics of having one-on-one tutoring and the reading programs, however Young is hopeful the school will be able to have these sorts of activities in the near future.
Hutchins Elementary campus includes students in first through third grade.