Church helps children prepare for school with free supplies and love

August 05, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Taylor Boward, 11, of Hagerstown, has her feet washed by church member George Leary Sunday at Gateway Ministries in Williamsport. At rear are Vanessa Anderson, 6, and church member Rhonda Grossnickle. The church's Love 4 A Child event helped prepare children for the school year with free school supplies, footwear, haircuts, dental care and more.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Airianna Ecker, 3, leaned forward in the pew while Gateway Ministries congregation member Denise McConnell washed Airianna’s feet.

Malachi Davis, 4, occasionally rubbed his face with a bib while volunteer Diana Weller, a supervisor at Award Beauty School, trimmed his hair.

The two children were among 500 prekindergarten through high school seniors who were registered for Gateway Ministries’ second annual Love 4 A Child event on Sunday afternoon.

Gateway’s complex, along Greencastle Pike west of Hagerstown, was packed with hundreds of people as families went from station to station so their children could get, for free, a bookbag full of school supplies, new socks and sneakers, haircuts, dental care, lunch and more. Moms could get manicures while their cars were washed. There also were activities and entertainment for children.

“Our heart is to see kids succeed in life,” said Executive Pastor Dale Cosden, event director.

The services and gifts were to help children as they prepare to go back to school, while relieving families of some financial stress in these challenging times, Cosden said. The event was for Tri-State-area children of single parents and families in need, he said.

Last year, event officials planned for 125 children and scrambled to accommodate 333 students after the registration took off, he said.

The event costs about $16,000 to $18,000, Cosden said.

Congregation members donated toiletry items for the children and money for the event, for which financial and in-kind donations from several businesses also were received, he said.

Lonestar Builders, Heritage Roofing, Hagerstown Honda and some families in the congregation donated at least $1,000 for the event, Cosden said.

Samaritan’s Feet, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization, assisted Gateway in getting new shoes for the children, Cosden said.

Before new socks and shoes were put on each child’s feet, volunteers washed their feet and prayed for the children.

Yi-Lin Fan, 17, of Hagerstown, was busy replacing tubs of water for the volunteers washing children’s feet.

“I think it’s good for the kids and the parents,” Fan said of the event.

“It’s good for the kids to get a boost of confidence, get their hair done, get some nice things to go back to school with ... Just makes them feel a little bit better about theirself as they go back to school each year,” said Crystal Wolfe, of Hagerstown.

Wolfe’s daughter, Ciley, 5, got her hair cut by Weller. Weller was one of about 175 volunteers helping at the event, Cosden said.

Weller also cut Malachi Davis’ hair.

Malachi’s sister, Mariah Davis, 12, said Sunday’s event helps the community and might lead to more people helping more often.

“This is wonderful,” said Davis’ mom, Barbi Davis.

“It’s a privilege to be able to come here,” said Barbi Davis, 33, of Hagerstown.

Davis, the mother of seven children, said without Gateway’s outreach event, her children wouldn’t have gotten a lot of the items and services they received Sunday.

“This is truly a blessing,” she said.

Gateway Ministries will hold a similar event next year, Cosden said. The church will hold a walkathon/runathon in the spring to raise money for that event, he said. Advance registration for the 2013 Love 4 A Child event is expected to begin in mid-June. This year’s deadline to register was July 15, he said.

Registration can be done online at, and applications will be available through local agencies such as Community Action Council and Head Start, Cosden said.

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