Dave and Linda Lewis are exactly the kind of people you would expect them to be. One owns Rita’s Italian Ice, the other runs the preschool program at First United Methodist Church in Euless. The former is gregarious and excitable; the living embodiment of a sugar rush. The latter speaks in hushed, soothing tones as though the entire world is a precious child. Together, the couple makes a powerful team.
One that has been part of the Night of Hope formula for nearly a decade.
In our last post, we explored the holiday demands of South Euless Elementary: the importance of normalcy for developing children and the struggles of one counselor to cover the myriad needs of hundreds of at-risk students at her school. She made it clear that schools in our district rely on community partners to keep at-risk children in the game.
In that regard, First United Methodist Church is doing their part.
Less than a mile separates the church from their adopt-a-school partner. To drive from one location to another, you only have to turn twice: out of one parking lot and into the other. That proximity made their partnership a natural choice.
“We’ve got to invest in those youngsters. South Euless is a big school. I think nearly 700, 800 children. And Night of Hope is a pretty big night! It’s a couple hundred children there. We’re touching a lot of families that night; really investing in those families, just giving them that little nugget of hope,” Dave said. “That can change the world. We don’t know what they’re going to go home to when they leave Night of Hope. It may not be a very happy house to be in. But for that short two hours, they had some happiness. You put enough happiness-es together, and life suddenly gets a little better.”
FUMC serves their partner school through a handful of programs. They provide snacks on test days, volunteers for the mentoring program, and preschool enrollment for several dozen South Euless students through Linda's department of the church. But the couple has a soft spot for Night of Hope.
The Most Important Thing is Love
Church and public life intersect constantly for the Lewis family. Dave runs his business as a means of engaging the community, usually showing up at school events and even the occasional Bedford Block Party. His wife knows dozens of South Euless families because of their involvement in her preschool program. In her mind, there’s nothing more important for a child than emotional support.
“As an educator, you just want children to feel love,” Linda said. “That’s one of the most important things, to me. When they come to school here, whether it be Beach Club or whether it be there at school, you want them to feel loved. And I think [Night of Hope] is a way that helps them feel loved. It helps their families feel loved.”
Sometimes, all you need is a touchpoint. An opportunity to offer love and support to someone in need. To that end, Linda says, 6 Stones is a valuable resource:
“There’s lots of behind-the-scenes stuff that 6 Stones does before we ever get involved. If it wasn’t for 6 Stones, we wouldn’t have that night. We just kind of come in and run the party and hand out the gifts. Y’all have done all the work behind the scenes to get it ready. It’s an awesome program that you’ve put together, and it gives the kids hope.”
By partnering with the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District, we can identify local families who are most in need of encouragement and support. We can invite them to take part in Night of Hope and handle all of the logistics to get them there and be sure that they go home with the exact presents their child wants. Local churches take it from there.
More Than Christmas
From December 10 until December 13, more than 20 schools will host or participate in a Night of Hope party. Thousands of kids will get the chance to spend quality time with their families and their parents will go home with one less holiday expense about which to worry; one less difficult budgetary choice to make.
That’s more parties — and more people — than our little staff could ever hope to handle. On some nights, there will be as many concurrent parties as we have employees. That’s where dozens of local church partners come in.
First United Methodist is one of many congregations that will bring upwards of 40 people together to serve our most vulnerable neighbors; enough to engage every parent with caring, compassionate conversation during the party — a resource that Dave and Linda call the most important of all.
“I think any part of growing a community or a partnership is creating enough of those special moments where the connection is made. Our church works with South Euless in a lot of different facets — and the staff in a lot of different ways — and it’s just one more time where they see [people come together to help them],” Dave said.
“These little things help unite us,” Linda added. “We’re just sharing love to each other. Uniting each other and building those relationships with cultures of all different kinds.
“Hopefully, it starts a chain reaction. You’ve made a difference to them, in their life, and they want to go make a difference to someone in their life when they can and when they’re able. But you’ve also made a difference in the life of a child that may not have been able to have anything for Christmas because Christmas, to kids, is really important.”
If you agree that Christmas is important for kids, regardless of who they are or where they come from, join us in providing joy and hope this holiday season. Visit 6stones.org/noh to volunteer for a party or sponsor a child for $65.