ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) - Through its Shine partnership, one Albuquerque church has been able to provide thousands of food items to hundreds of students at Kennedy Middle School. "The Shine Partnership has consistently focused on developing meaningful long-term relationships through responding to school-specific needs that move the school community forward," said Ynette Colyer, Shine Partnership’s regional program director.
From the Church’s Perspective
As early as February 2019, Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Albuquerque, felt led to explore the opportunities for church-school partnerships that exist through Shine. Pastor Bill Connors believed such a partnership would be a fitting stewardship of funds. The funds came primarily from the church's Sunday evening offering, collected specifically to support local missions.
At first, Connors hoped to establish a relationship with El Dorado High School because of its proximity to the church. However, Shine representatives directed the church to consider supporting Manzano High School, together with Monterey Baptist Church.
With the onset of COVID-19 and the closure of public school buildings, many students lost daily access to food. Yet, those closed doors created an opportunity for Eastern Hills to transition its partnership to Kennedy Middle School and begin supporting students' physical needs.
Beginning March 23, Eastern Hills has served as a collection point for area churches and individuals to drop off shelf-stable, single-serving food items for Albuquerque Public Schools students. Using the NextDoor App, the church broadcasted needs to its community, and neighbors responded who were previously unconnected to Eastern Hills.
The church also bags and transports the food items to the school. Peggy Jugmahansingh, the school's community coordinator, meets volunteers at the school. Then, she and others distribute 50 food bags to families experiencing the highest level of need.
According to one Eastern Hills volunteer, getting to know Jugmahansingh has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the Shine partnership. Such relationships are at the heart of Shine's mission. According to the Shine’s website, "We believe true transformation happens in relationship. We will never prioritize the project over the people."
Ynette Colyer, Shine’s regional program director, said, "As we move through COVID 19, Shine is actively preparing to equip Eastern Hills and other church partners to help their school communities recover from this pandemic.” When asked whether he would recommend other churches partner with Shine, Pastor Bill Connors responded, "Yes … Shine is the point of connection between the church community and APS. They've already done the groundwork that would take churches months or maybe even years to do."
From the School’s Perspective
Shine's partnership with Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Albuquerque, formally launched ten weeks after Shine Partnership reached out to Albuquerque’s Kennedy Middle School. The effort began with an APS staffer reaching out to Shine after an announcement that all New Mexico schools would be closed indefinitely on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic. KMS soon learned that its Feed New Mexico Kids partner could not continue weekly deliveries of nutritious, snackable food items. The food was for for 50 KMS students who are most at risk of experiencing hunger on weekends.
Lindsay Wilwol, community schools manager with Albuquerque Public School’s Coordinated School Health Department reached out to Shine. She spoke with Ynette Colyer, Shine’s regional program director. Shine’s business is developing church-school partnerships, and it is an official APS partner.
Within a day of the school closure announcement, Colyer contacted KMS and offered to fill the need for food until the school year ended on May 22. She arranged for Eastern Hills Baptist Church to begin weekly deliveries of 50 food bags. EHBC's youth pastor, Trevor Clark, led the effort for several weeks with dedicated volunteers. Church member Michael Schott took over for the last few weeks. Colyer also donated several Smith's gift cards totaling $115, for families in need of gasoline.
During the week of May 4, Colyer offered to take KMS to the next Shine partnership level, a continuing partnership with EHBC. On May 14, she met, via Zoom, with Principal Laura Chiang; Anthony Carrillo, assistant principal; Susan Arnett, dean of students; Kerry Trammell, school counselor; and Peggy Jugmahansingh, outgoing community school coordinator.
"Working as an educational leader through a pandemic is incredibly daunting and can even bring feelings of hopelessness at times," Chiang said. "When amazing partners come to alleviate community needs during times such as this, it fills the shortage and brings new life and energy to other efforts the school is undertaking."
Jugmahansingh said that Chiang and her team were working on three areas of growth and enhancement for Ms. Colyer to share with the EHBC team. KMS is optimistic that with well-defined goals and sustained efforts, the new partnership will yield positive results for family engagement and capacity building. The collaboration can also impact student academic performance and behavior.