“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. FUMC Dallas 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 FUMC Dallas 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 FUMC Dallas and the seeds were sown for volunteers to become reading tutors in the fall of 2014.
Since its inception, this ministry has remained a partnership. 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 services to include 1,220 volunteer hours in the following ways:
- Back to School Teacher Breakfast
- Funding to cover field trip transportation costs
- Teacher appreciation events
- Reading on Dr. Seuss Day
- Chaperoning field trips
- Speakers on Career Day
- Books for each 3rd and 4th grade students
- “Cowboy Bucks,” a program to reward good behavior among students
- Bicycles for perfect attendance each six weeks
- School-Employee adoption
- Office and library assistance
Although this ministry was initiated to transform students’ lives, volunteers have experienced the transformative power of reaching across geographic, social, and cultural divides. It leads to a deeper understanding and calls us to put Christ’s love into action. This One + One school partnership asks the church and its pastors to participate in public education advocacy in the state of Texas. Dr. Andy Stoker has traveled to Austin multiple times to appear before members of the state legislature and as the DISD representative for Pastors of Texas Children.
Church member and partnership tutor, David Black says it this way, “I never left the school wondering why I was up so early on Monday morning driving across town to tutor two third graders. My heart was filled with joy from seeing the smiles on the faces of those boys as they reveled in their successes. They were learning and growing and pleased to show me their success. We established a friendship. They grew in their reading skills and were able to share that with an “old man” who had become a friend to them. I felt BLESSED by their presence in my life.”