July 21, 2022 -- For years, local faith-based organizations have supported our public schools in informal ways, organizing school supply drives or donating books. More than a decade ago, then-school social worker Joan Bacon, sought to formalize these partnerships. Thus was born Faiths Alive, a collaboration among local churches, synagogues and temples, each partnering with one of CH-UH’s seven elementary schools.
The initial goal was to ensure that school social workers have at least $125 in their emergency fund, which they use for everything from winter boots for the child with extra large feet to hotel stays for a homeless family when shelters are full. Social workers frequently pay for such things out of their own pockets and having a small sum available when they need it can make a huge difference.
The partnerships allow for faith-based leaders and volunteers to have a direct line to each school to determine what is truly needed. It may be help filling the building’s food or clothing pantry or it may be recruiting volunteers for a tutoring program. Sometimes it’s something as simple as purchasing music books so a child can continue learning their instrument.
According to social worker Wendy Burkey, who works at both Noble and Gearity, “The impact is HUGE. Sometimes the smallest thing can help a family get back on track.”
The participating institutions are as diverse as the student needs. Park Synagogue filled 300 backpacks with school supplies that were shared by social workers among the various schools. Noble Road Presbyterian Church sponsored extra-curricular activities for three children in one Noble family that continued through the summers, middle school and into high school.
A grant from Forest Hill Presbyterian Church funded the Zones of Regulation curriculum at Boulevard. According to social worker Caryl Yoo, “These resources helped us provide quality social emotional learning in every classroom to increase the social emotional competencies of self- awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.”
Representatives from the various religious organizations come together at least once each year to enjoy a brunch, share the work they’ve done and generate ideas for ways to stay involved in the future. “It is important that this effort be on-going and self-sustaining,” said Ms. Bacon. “Faiths Alive shows that the Heights is a wonderful place, where religious organizations are vital and people are very invested in the schools.”