Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Choctaw church gives beyond the grant


Barbara Bayless (center), a reading specialist at James Griffith Intermediate School, reacts to receiving an $800 grant from Choctaw UMC to purchase curriculum to help students who struggle with reading. Photo by Amy Loudermilk.

A church that offers grants to local teachers went above and beyond to fund a high school food pantry.

Choctaw United Methodist Church, along with the Margaret E. Petree Foundation, awarded grants to three teachers in Choctaw-Nicoma Park Schools on Nov. 12. The grants are “awarded primarily for the care and mentoring of children, youth, and the needy and disadvantaged,” according to the application. The church has offered up to $1,000 a year in grant awards for the past three years. Pastor Barry Collins said visiting the local schools to hand out the grant awards is one of the highlights of his year.

“Teachers work so hard, and they have limited funds to buy any extra resources needed to educate the kids,” Pastor Collins said. “We feel, as a church family, that we are empowering our local teachers to be the hands and feet of Christ by blessing them with needed funds to serve the children in a specific area of need.”

This year the grant budget was awarded to two intermediate school teachers for specialty curriculum. Barbara Bayless, a reading specialist at James Griffith Intermediate School, was awarded $800 to purchase curriculum to help students who struggle with reading, and Cheryl Card, a counselor at Nicoma Park Intermediate School, was awarded $317.34 to purchase curriculum and resource books that are designed to help children overcome trauma.

“The students are able to stay at or above grade level with their exposure to content and vocabulary as we work towards improving their decoding abilities to read high levels of text,” Bayless said of the “Learning Ally” curriculum to help readers. “Both I and our site are so grateful for the grant because we can expose children to books for entertainment without them having to struggle, and academic content that they can read with more ease and independence with the use of this tool.”

Michael James (center), principal of Choctaw High School, accepts a grant awarded to Kelly Collins, a counselor who wanted to start a food pantry. Photo by Amy Loudermilk.
Cheryl Card (left), a counselor at Nicoma Park Intermediate School, was awarded $317.34 to purchase resources to help children overcome trauma. Photo by Amy Loudermilk.

Though the grant funds for the year were spent, another request caught the church grant committee’s eye: Kelly Collins, a counselor at Choctaw High School, wanted $410 to start a food pantry that would feed students on the free and reduced lunch program during weekends and holidays when the cafeteria is closed.

The committee decided to take the need to the church for a special offering. After one week’s notice and an anonymous $500 matching fund challenge, the church raised $1,418 for the high school. Kelly Collins said the pantry will impact approximately 500 students in the school.

“As a counselor, it is difficult to hear students express a need and the only option is to provide them with a referral, and no ability to verify the need was adequately met,” Kelly Collins said. “We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to meet this need in-house. It will allow us to follow-up with these students on a weekly basis and open lines of communication between students and counselors. Long-term, we look for this grant to directly impact grades and graduation.”

Pastor Collins said the church would have used assistance funds to meet the pantry’s cost if they hadn’t raised the full amount.

“The opportunity to give in this way blesses the hearts of our CUMC family as we seek to live out the mission of Choctaw UMC: to invite others to know, love, and live a life in Christ,” he said.


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