Love in action

News | August 25, 2022

The Neighborhood Schools Partnership has been a mainstay within St. Paul for years, putting our core values into daily action. The partnership connects St. Paul with Madison Elementary and the love of St. Paul is needed now more than ever. Dana Welser is the Neighborhood Schools Partnership coordinator and while many of the in-school opportunities disappeared during the pandemic, even more opportunities to serve are opening up during the coming school year.

“It’s really important that we have a presence in our own neighborhood, a direct impact on the kids, families, and staff at Madison Elementary,” Dana said. “What we’re looking for is an influx of love because they’ve endured some really hard years. They face challenges, the parent support is not the same as other schools, and the inequity they face. We can help with some of that.”
That support comes down to the loving community at St. Paul. The connections can be one-on-one with a child or in a group setting supporting staff. These differing levels of connection appeal to different people. While some prefer to be on a team, others prefer an individual expression of their care.

“Recently Pastor Katy had a sermon about when you see a need, you go and help. This is a place that is calling to us, sharing their needs, and it’s many of us that can lift this up with our individual gifts,” Dana said. “It’s not going to look the same for everyone. Some people want to serve three days a week while others only have the time for twice a month or occasional special events. There’s a way to partner with exactly what you already have.”

Whether once a week or once in a while, volunteers are the extra hands and hearts for children and staff at Madison.

Shooting hoops, Tom Bley
The lunch buddy program is an opportunity for one-on-one time with students during their lunch hour. The objective is to offer role models, a connection to help children learn how to have relationships with and faith in adults. Some of these kids are struggling to find that in their lives. Tom Bley has been a lunch buddy for years, having connected with one buddy through a round of lunchtime basketball.

“My buddy and I would eat lunch together but he enjoyed eating lunch away from the other students,” Tom said. “He and I would go into the gymnasium and shoot baskets. We enjoyed doing that together. We talked a lot and had fun together. We really were just two friends shooting hoops.”

This kind of personal connection would not have been possible without Tom’s willingness to spend a little time connecting with a new friend.

“It’s really easy to be someone’s friend. Anybody can do it. The kids respond to it. You can make such a difference in a kid’s life by being a lunch buddy, or a reading tutor, it’s so important. You’re providing something that matters so much.”

Turning love into action, Suzanne Benson
Suzanne Benson has been on the Madison Market team for years and sees the impact of putting your love into action.

“Love is an active verb. To be a listener, to be actively caring, getting to know the families, spending time together, that’s active love,” Suzanne said. “The conscious act of really listening to what they have to say. We’re the face they are going to see every time and they know they can trust us. That trust and that love transform the whole experience. It’s a circle of love. What you give comes back to you. It’s just magic. You can say love but to actually live it makes it a whole different thing.”

There are numerous areas of volunteer opportunities at Madison Elementary including in the classroom, cafeteria, parking, grounds care, and more.

To volunteer at Madison, please contact Vanessa Stone, and let her know which area you may be interested in volunteering and she will work to place you in that area.

Interested in being a reading buddy? Contact United Way and tell them you want to read with a new friend at Madison Elementary.

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