April 26, 2017
Local Clergy Honored As “Layperson of the Year” by Canton Professional Educators’ Association
Rev. Don Richards, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in North Canton was selected to receive this award because his involvement at Belden Elementary Leadership School. Grace UMC Adopted Belden School at Christmas 2015 by providing each student with a hand packaged and gift wrapped box of items for the kids to open at home. Grace U.M.C. then designated their Christmas Eve offering to go to the school to fund school store where students redeem “Belden Bucks” for appropriate behavior in class.
“After presenting the check for about $2,000 at a school assembly, I got called into the principal’s office, which is not usually a good thing,’ recalls Richards. “The school principal, Angela Cedars suggested that if Grace really wanted to help some of the kids at Belden, we could get some volunteers to come on a weekly basis to spend lunch and recess with some students.” Mrs. Cedars visited Grace UMC and told the congregation about volunteer opportunities at Belden and how they could make a big difference in students’ lives by just spending an hour a week at the school. Rev. Richards is now part of a team from Grace that goes every week to mentor two groups of students.
Grace UMC’s “adoption” of Belden School was expressed last Christmas through a special mission project. The congregation was challenged to provide 283 $10 Dollar General Gift Cards so each student would be given one on the day before Christmas Vacation. ‘The congregation got so excited about this,” said Richards, “that all the Dollar Generals around Canton were completely sold out of $10 Gift cards two weeks before Christmas. This partnership has not only brought new life to Belden School, it has also brought new life to Grace UMC.”
Richards has a vision to help 50 churches to adopt schools in their local community as Grace UMC has done. Training and other resources are available for any church interested in adopting a school. For more information, email Rev. Richards firstname.lastname@example.org.