While teacher walkouts are taking place this spring across the country, Oklahoma Baptists were there for displaced students during a nine-day walkout that made headlines beginning April 2 at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
As it became clear that schools across the state would close as teachers protested for higher pay and more school funding, questions surfaced as to where meals would come for children who depend on school breakfast or lunches. Another question that arose was what would working parents do for childcare on such short notice?
To answer these questions, Oklahoma Baptists “showed up” in a big way across the Sooner State. From the two metro areas to rural districts, numerous churches answered the call for help.
In one metro neighborhood, Coffee Creek Church in Edmond provided a day camp for students whose parents needed emergency childcare. Drew Swadley, Next Generation pastor at Coffee Creek, talked about the desperate situation in which some parents found themselves.
“If the kids couldn’t come here, I don’t know what they would have done aside from taking off of work,” Swadley said. “But not everyone could do that. So we loved giving them a safe place to hang out, and just spend time with them for the day.”
Swadley said students were taught lessons on respect, treating others nicely and other topics that, in general, are applicable to students of all ages.
“This has been a great opportunity to reach out to the community on the heels of Easter where we had a few neighborhood events,” Swadley said.
Another congregation that stepped up to feed children in their neighborhood was Mission OKC. Pastor Chad Clement said the church received 15 pallets of food from the local relief organization Feed the Children to distribute to those who needed meals while school was not in session.
“The amount of food they gave us to distribute is more than 10,000 lunches, and that was specifically for the walkout. They come with tuna as the protein and other non-perishable items that will allow the kids to have a nutritional meal,” Clement said.
Mission OKC is no stranger to feeding those in need throughout the year, with a large focus in the summertime when the church serves lunches from N.W. 10th St. all the way to Lake Overholser.
However, with schools on hold during the walkout, some families with food insecurities began coming in as early as the week before the teacher walkout to ensure that their family would eat while school was not in session.
“In this area, the kids depend on the school lunches and breakfasts, and those are their two main meals a day,” Clement said. “That’s a scary thing for them to not know where those meals will come from, and I’m sure (it scares) their parents as well.
“When you’re working in poverty areas, before we ever crack a Bible or do anything with the kids, the first thing we do is we make sure they are fed because it’s not just being hungry,” he noted. “For them it’s being scared. There’s a feeling of insecurity we probably don’t and can’t relate to, but it is a panic they have.”
When it came to mobilizing food for the thousands of children across the state who would need meals during the walkout, Clement said, it seemed daunting. But with the help of Oklahoma Baptists as a whole, needs have been met.
“Even though we have relationships with hundreds of families, we are really just scratching the surface,” Clement said. “We saw Feed the Children, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and many more organizations come together to make sure these families had food.”
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Source: Baptist Press