Taking care of Humble ISD students’ back-to-school needs was a mission accomplished by several local area churches, the Northeast Interfaith Council and Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM).
Olga Najar, director of social services for St. Martha Catholic Church, is enthusiastic when talking about her church’s participation in the back-to-school supplies and backpack event.
According to Najar, St Martha’s organizes a backpack and school supply drive every year.
“Our social services department is supported by our pastor, Rev. T.J. Dolce, my assistant Syvon Wetherold and myself,” said Najar. “Our backpack and school supply drive benefits Elm Grove Elementary in Kingwood and Dogwood Elementary in New Caney. This drive takes place during the month of July and this year, in addition, we asked our congregation for gift card donations. With those gift cards, families in need would be able to buy shoes, socks or underwear for their kids.”
With the generosity of their parishioners, St. Martha’s was able to donate 50 backpacks and a large quantity of school supplies to Elm Grove. Dogwood received 100 backpacks, 30 gift cards and school supplies.
“We are so blessed and thankful to be part of such a generous community!” Najar said.
Magdalene House Social Services Director, Chris Rubio, at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, spearheaded their back-to-school drive. St. Mary's Magdalene House Social Services collaborates with the Northeast Houston Interfaith Council to provide backpacks and school supplies for the low income "marginalized" and homeless families in the northeast Houston community.
“These are families who can't afford to purchase the necessary items for their children to be successful during the upcoming school year so we step in to help,” Rubio said. “During the months of July and August, the community of St. Mary Magdalene responded to the request to donate, and within a few weeks, nearly 100 backpacks and school supplies came in. We are extremely grateful for the dedication of our community for their response to the needs of these families.”
According to Rubio, St. Mary Magdalene Homeless Initiative keeps close tabs on the homeless individuals and families who are residing in tents, on streets and in their cars.
“Many of these families have no place to go or stay as local store managers have started to run them away from their parking lots, and since Metro and public transportation are nowhere to be found, these families have very little options,” said Rubio. “Northeast Houston needs a Metro bus stop in Humble so these families can go into Houston to get the necessary resources and rehabilitation from agencies such as Coalition for the Homeless, Ser Jobs, Search Homeless Services and others. We also need additional shelters. But rehabilitation, job training and mental health programs are key.”
Rubio explained that Magdalene House Social Services reopened its doors in August, after providing 94,117 individuals with food during the COVID-19 disaster food distributions that they hosted for 15 months at the parish. “It was a drive thru distribution. We were blessed to have over 250 volunteers respond to God's call to serve,” he said. Magdalene House hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m.
“We have found ourselves preparing to take care of the Louisiana Hurricane Ida evacuees. Right now, I'm pulling together a team to assist for the next six to nine months. Might be longer,” Rubio added.
Marilyn Mann, community engagement specialist for Humble ISD, said the Northeast Interfaith Council organizes a school supply drive for Humble ISD students each year. They worked with St. Martha's for their backpack drive and St. Mary's as well. “They donated school supplies to Humble Middle School and River Pines Elementary,” said Mann.
Nasir Malik is serving his second term as president of Northeast Interfaith Council. "This is the fifth year that Northeast Interfaith Council has held a school supply drive with area churches for the students of Humble ISD. We enjoy helping students have a successful start to their school year with the needed supplies and backpacks,” Malik said.
In addition, the council strives to build stronger community through respectful dialogue, joint service opportunities and connecting people to need-based resources.
Emily Bankston, children's minister at Strawbridge United Methodist Church, stated that her church does a lot more than school supplies for students. “Strawbridge has the amazing privilege of being a partner with Elm Grove Elementary,” said Bankston. “Every summer we donate school supplies, but it varies based on the needs of the school. This year we donated school supplies and backpacks that were donated by Sunday school classes. The backpacks were given out at our Elm Grove celebration, which was a celebration for those students participating in a summer program called Camp Eagle,” she said.
Bankston explained that the school supplies and remaining backpacks were given directly to the counselors to deliver to those students who were most in need. “Clothes were also given to the school nurse,” Bankston said. “Our partnership has been such a blessing and has been around for more than five years. We have an active presence in that school and we love all the teachers and students.”
Strawbridge is the only church in the area certified as an autism center.
Strawbridge obtained this certification by partnering with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.
“They offered trainings that equipped our children’s pastor and volunteers to equip our church congregation and staff with the skills necessary to work with all of God’s children,” Bankston said. “One in 54 children has some form of autism, so it is very likely each week that we encounter a child on the autism spectrum. We feel very blessed by this partnership and it is another way we can offer love and hospitality to all of God’s children.”
"Strawbridge strives each day to not only be the best church in the community, but rather the best church for the community. Becoming a certified autism center enables us to be more inclusive and to live out that mission. Equipping our staff and volunteers with these skills will better enable us to love all God’s children and further support them in their discipleship journey."
According to HAAM Volunteer Coordinator Catherine Schrof, HAAM’s covenant partners along with community support collect school supplies annually for HAAM to distribute.
“This year, Frost Bank donated 100 school supply packs and handed them out at a distribution event we held at HAAM in August,” said Schrof. “This year, we provided school supplies to 965 households with 1,238 students and new sneakers to 563 students so far.”