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JJ Rhoads Partnership

June 7, 2017
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“Ready or not, First United Methodist Church of Dallas has inherited a call individually and collectively. This call has come from Christ to go into all of Dallas, all of North Texas and to the ends of the earth to show and share God’s love in all that we are and all that we will become.” – Dr. Andy Stoker

As Christians, we are called to be the hands and the heart of the living Christ in our community. In 2013, Dr. Stoker quoted Bishop Mike McKee in a sermon, calling for Methodists of the North Texas Conference to become involved in education and advocacy for children in our public school systems. FirstChurch member and retired DISD teacher, Dottie Dunnam, answered this call to discipleship by working with Rev. Linda Roby to envision a school partnership and to muster a committee of FirstChurch members to bring this vision to life.

The committee sought a school partnership in the most economically disadvantaged Dallas zip code with an existing reading program to build upon. The school principal at Joseph J. Rhoads Learning Center welcomed a partnership with FirstChurch, and the seeds were sown for volunteers to become reading tutors in the fall of 2014.

Since inception and throughout its evolution, this ministry has remained a partnership. FirstChurch does not prescribe a solution or send money. Our volunteers work alongside school administrators and staff to vet new ideas for service opportunities and to prioritize financial needs. The end of this school year marks our third year serving JJ Rhoads, throughout which this partnership has become more ingrained with the administration, staff and students. This year, 42 reading volunteers worked with approximately 80 students to provide a total of 1,092 reading hours by the end of April. Although reading remains the cornerstone of this ministry, we have expanded our service to include 1,220 volunteer hours in the following ways:

  • Hosting a breakfast for teachers and staff to launch a new school year
  • Obtaining Rise Funding to cover transportation costs
  • Hosting 3 teacher appreciation events
  • Reading to students on Dr. Seuss Day
  • Chaperoning spring field trips
  • Participating as speakers on Career Day
  • Sponsoring an on-site educational petting zoo for all students
  • Providing 3 books for each 3rd and 4th grade student to take home at the end of the school year
  • Financially supporting “Cowboy Bucks,” a program to reward good behavior among students
  • 7 hours of volunteer clerical work in the school offices each week

Although this ministry was born to transform the lives of students, our volunteers have discovered that reaching across geographic, social and cultural divides to know, understand and love our neighbors has the power to transform our understanding or the world and calls us to put Christ’s love in action. You, too, are invited to show and share God’s love as part of this ministry by donating to the Rise Fund, contacting Beverly Funk (bevjfunktx@att.net) to become a reading tutor or to volunteer in other capacities, asking your Sunday school class to arrange a presentation about the FirstChurch & JJ Rhoads partnership, and celebrating our current volunteers in Fiedler Atrium on Sunday, August27th. This summer, we will be collecting uniforms and invite you to register students for the Mayor’s Back to School Fair (details to follow)!

Thank you, FirstChurch, for answering this call to Christian discipleship so boldly. Our fervent support of DISD students has poised Dr. Andy Stoker to continue this advocacy at the state level as the DISD Representative of the Pastors for Texas Children and as Chairman of Project Transformation National. In all the individual ways we have been called to serve, we are collectively changing the lives of students around Dallas in partnership, in service and in leadership.

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