Today’s post is by guest writer, Cheryl Kaufman.
I have loved the diverse community at Santa Rita Courts public housing complex on 2nd Street since I discovered it many years ago, so I was thrilled when our church moved into this neighborhood in 2015. Neighbors of my heart became neighbors in proximity. As soon as we purchased our new building, Christ Church began reaching out to the children at Santa Rita by organizing summer arts camps. The bond was strengthened, when we began to volunteer at Zavala Elementary School, where many of the Santa Rita children attend. It has been such a privilege to serve beside other members at Christ Church both at Zavala and Santa Rita.
Before Covid-19 turned our neighborhood volunteering opportunities upside down, I was able to serve as a mentor on a weekly basis at Zavala Elementary with one little girl who lives at Santa Rita. We would just hang out for 30 minutes, once a week, during her lunch break. She taught me how to play several silly games and make slime. She introduced me to volcano hot “Takis”, her favorite snack. She thought it was hilarious that these were way too hot for me to eat! Sometimes, we would work on her homework, and I learned what she was learning, including electrical circuitry. I was thankful that the material was only at the fourth-grade level! We celebrated her accomplishments, and grieved over her heartbreaks.
Christ Church has had many opportunities to engage with Zavala students and their families. We provided frozen turkeys, gifts, library books, and emergency supplies. Christ Church members also drove pedicabs for a parade and helped with a Christmas “store,” set up for the children. But mentoring has been the most meaningful experience for me.
In the summers, we have had lots of fun providing art camps for Santa Rita children. I loved joining together with other Christ Church volunteers in these chaotic, messy, and energetic creative projects. We approached the classes by teaching that God is a creator and so are we. We offered theater, crafts, music, and creative play and even had an art show at the end of one of the camps. It was a joy to laugh and play and create alongside these children from so many different cultures and backgrounds. That joy continued when I met these children in the hallways on my weekly visits to Zavala and see their smiles.
I am thankful for the opportunity God has given me through Christ Church to love the families at Zavala and Santa Rita, and for the joy they have brought into my life. I am especially grateful for a Church that understands the value of loving our neighbors through relationships.
There are a handful of different ways to love our neighbors this fall at Zavala Elementary through volunteer programs! You can learn more about the volunteer opportunities here. Would you consider volunteering and building friendships with our neighbors at Zavala this fall?
P.S. Thank you to everyone who donated gift baskets for Zavala Elementary a few weeks ago! This was a tangible way to strengthen our community.