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Church helps struggling 5th graders thrive

Human Relations Sunday is Jan. 15

Thanks to a Human Relations Day Sunday grant, Journey of Faith United Methodist Church is leaving a lasting impression on its struggling community.

At North Belt Elementary School in Humble, Texas, nearly 90 percent of the students live at or below the poverty line, says Principal Macaire McDonough-Davies.

"Our pre-K through fifth-grade students face daily struggles at home and many live in chronic stress. Many of our students help to raise their younger siblings. Our parents often work several jobs to make ends meet and are unable to help with homework or provide school supplies and other essentials that lead to school success," she adds.

That's why the school's partnership with Journey of Faith Church, also in Humble, is blessing students and staff.


The church's Redeeming Our Community project, the actual grant recipient, pairs students with adult mentors who "help with school assignments, homework or just play a board game and talk," McDonough-Davies says. "Our students cherish the time with their mentors. For them, it's a time to just be a kid and let an adult care for them."

Redeeming Our Community also collaborates with local assistance ministries, a family shelter and the area's Head Start program.

"The project addresses the needs of poor students and families. (It) is multifaceted and contributes to the development of the total family and community," says Stevelyn Levigne, a community developer. "The Human Relations Day (grant) allows our ministry to thrive in places that we would not otherwise be available to impact."

Situated north of Houston, Humble has a "high level of poverty and a low level of education," Levigne says, "which makes this project ideal."

The work that Journey of Faith church members are doing is leaving a lasting impression on the community they serve.

Each year North Belt fifth graders join community leaders for a formal Manners' Banquet. Students can show off the etiquette lessons they have learned and polish their conversational skills.

To assist students who don't own formal clothing for the special occasion, church members collect suits, dresses, shoes and accessories to create a Manners Banquet Boutique. "The men and women at Journey of Faith act as personal shoppers to our students," says McDonough-Davies. Church volunteers also decorate the school cafeteria for the event.

"All 750 of our students are in awe by the transformation, and our fifth graders feel extra special because it has been done for them. Journey of Faith volunteers serve our students and take pride in watching our students blossom due to their efforts."

Contributions to the Human Relations Day Special Sunday offering help churches like Journey of Faith "provide educational, spiritual and physical support to children, youth and families in our community," Levigne says.

And that support translates into long-term improvements.

"Research suggests that adverse childhood experiences can lead to poor mental and physical health, less success at school and lower socioeconomic status in adulthood. Fortunately, safe, nurturing relationships and communities can help break the cycle and produce long-term improvements in children's outcomes," says McDonough-Davies. "We are thrilled that Journey of Faith has committed to make a difference in the lives of our students."

Julie Dwyer is general church content editor at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee. This article was originally published at

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