Each of the 7 years Lakewood Church of Christ has partnered with other area churches and the Green Mountain Civic Association to support the in school/after school faith based tutoring program, Whiz Kids, at Foothills Elementary School, the highlight of the year has been a Christmas Party/Dinner at the church in early December. This year’s dinner occurred Tuesday, December 4 at the Lakewood Church and it was the largest and most successful party yet!
The goals of the Whiz Kid Christmas Dinner/Party are to:
- Encourage the students and their families
- Create better connections between school, church and community
- Offer an experience for these students and their families that will nurture a deep sense of blessing and support in their lives that will help them feel loved throughout the year.
At each Christmas event families arrive around 6pm, the kids enjoy fun crafts and activities while the adults enjoy appetizers and conversation with each other, community members, church members, principal Josh Shapiro and even city leaders such as Mayor Adam Paul and City Councilman Dave Skilling. It is hard to exaggerate how important it is for these parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other guardians to experience the value of this kind of interaction.
The dinner is served at 7pm and is always an over-the-top meal. This year featured BBQ from Pigging Out and homemade vegetables prepared by church and community members. A pair of local High School students played dinner music for the 140+ dinner guests in the auditorium of the Lakewood Church whose teens had transformed into a Christmas lighted banquet hall.
After dinner the evening’s experience featured Principal Shapiro leading us all in; “shout-out’s” from students, tutors and others reinforcing a culture of encouragement, blessing and noticing what is good in others, some wonderful Christmas music and songs led by tutor Melanie Crane and the traditional Ham/Turkey/Gift Certificate giveaways to close out the evening. A local sporting goods manufacturer, Park & Sun Sports in Englewood donates activity based gifts that are available for all the families.
A lot can be said for the encouragement, connections and blessing goals of the event but the real power of an evening like this is best illustrated in the life of one of the young single mothers who attended. It was her first experience with the Christmas event because her student is in 1st grade. It is sometimes intimidating to visit a church or take off work to participate in something like this with people you don’t know but this mom came anyway.
During the event she warmed up as she watched her young children enjoy the meal and activities. She began to let down her guard in conversation around the table with tutors, community and church members. Finally, at the end of the night she revealed that she was in a desperate situation. Church and community members have surrounded her with support and tangible strategies through partnerships with local government and nonprofit agencies and she is now on the pathway to self-sufficiency, security and a dramatically improved Christmas season for her and her two kids.
A meal and celebration is great…but in the end this kind of connection forms the foundation for transforming the lives and future for dozens of families and students in our neighborhoods across the city. Thanks for your encouragement, support and partnership so this kind of program and experience can flourish and multiply!