|Vicki and Robert Hunt and Martha and Merv Nerling of Chapel by the Sea meet with Andrea Daniels of Lincoln City Head Start to plan this year’s May 23rd Staff Appreciation Luncheon.|
At first, the relationship was tentative, with the congregation navigating how best to participate with the preschool. They tried a “read aloud” to the children and having lunch with the children, but neither of the activities took off.
Then eight years ago, as Chapel by the Sea Education Committee Head Merv Nerling became more aware of the children's needs, he initiated a church fundraiser to buy Christmas presents for the children. And, as Merv always does, he made it personal. The congregation didn’t purchase gifts or donate money for gifts for “Boy – aged 3” or “Girl – aged 4” - Merv took the time to find out each child’s name and to get a list of what they really wanted for Christmas.
The annual gift-giving through Chapel by the Sea’s “Angel Tree” program spurred two other programs to help the preschool. Merv started providing each graduating preschooler with school supplies required by the school district to take to kindergarten at Oceanlake or Taft Elementary.
“It doesn’t take much to make a difference,” Nerling said. “For about $7 per child, we give them something that makes them feel special on graduation day.” The church Education Committee, now headed by Vicki and Bob Hunt, continues to provide each child with items like pencils, crayons, and glue sticks in a brand new backpack – a tangible recognition of the students’ accomplishments.
The church has also acknowledged the staff at Head Start. As Nerling worked closely with the staff, he was impressed with the dedication and commitment they showed in giving the children a good preschool education that prepared them for kindergarten. So Merv started the annual Staff Appreciation Luncheon, which takes place at the church each spring. “Church members plan and prepare a tasty meal, usually cooked by Merv, who is a great cook,” Bob said. Church members share the meal with Head Start staff. “We want them to know how much they are appreciated,” he said.
“The congregation of Chapel by the Sea exemplifies the best of what a good neighbor is,” said Andrea Daniels, Education Supervisor at Lincoln City Head Start. Recognizing that many families take Christmas gifts and school supplies for granted, and are not so easy to come by for some families, Chapel by the Sea stepped in and “adopted” the 80 or so children across the street.
“We feel like family,” Daniels said, who appreciates the “little things” that church members give to the children. “The children love the organ music. Once we went over to listen, and the organist took the time to show the children all the different sounds the organ can make. They had a lot of fun and loved it!”
As they plan the next annual event, Lincoln City Head Start looks forward to many more years in partnership with Chapel by the Sea, their neighbors across the street.
If you would like to make a difference to a CSC Head Start student or family in need, contact Diana Teem at Community Services Consortium 541-574-2277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Head Start in Lincoln County or any of CSC’s poverty fighting programs visit www.communityservices.us.