Yakima Corps connects with local school

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New program supports students and teachers.

By Karen Gleason –

In response to a surge in gang violence and drug use in the Yakima, Washington, school district, The Salvation Army and a few local churches have each paired up with a school in the district to help address the issues.

The Yakima Corps is working with Roosevelt Elementary, and the partnership is already yielding encouraging results.

“They are actually inviting us into the schools,” said Corps Officer Lt. Rebecca Helms, who leads the Yakima Corps with her husband, Nick. “Almost every school in the district has been adopted by a church and the church works alongside the school and supports them in any way they can. It is a pretty awesome thing.”

The various church representatives and the school district officials meet quarterly to strategize. Helms recently sat down with Roosevelt Elementary Vice Principal Nancy Smith to discuss plans for the 2018–19 school year. As they talked about the school’s needs, Smith mentioned the teachers.

“She expressed that the teachers really need to be loved this year,” Helms said.

Helms said The Salvation Army would commit to doing back-to-school survival kits for all the teachers and staff, a small gift each month with a note of encouragement, and a quarterly staff snack for their staff meetings. The Army will also provide donated pastries for their monthly family nights.

In addition, The Salvation Army will continue a program it began last year—the first year of the partnership—in which the school counselor identifies students who may not have enough to eat over the weekends. Each week the Yakima Corps provides a backpack of food for the children to take home.

We try to make sure each backpack has something they could eat for every meal of the weekend,” Helms said.

Ultimately, the purpose of the program is to make Yakima a better place. More than 800 students in Yakima experienced homelessness last year, and nearly 22 percent of households are enrolled in SNAP benefits.

“The district’s hope is that if people are coming alongside the students and the teachers and showing that they care, lives will be changed,” Helms said. “I believe that is happening and will continue to happen.”

Because of the relationship The Salvation Army has established with the school and the district, the pair support the Army’s  programs, allowing the corps to advertise its youth programs, vacation Bible school and after-school program. The district also invited the Yakima Corps to give a presentation to all the school principals and counselors about what The Salvation Army is and the services it offers so they can better refer their families for help.

“The best part about the recent meeting is that I was able to pray with the vice principal at the end,” Helms said. “How awesome is that—being able to pray with her in a school.”

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