In a few short weeks, the school bell will resume ringing and children throughout north Atlanta will return to school for a new school year. Among these children are foster and low-income students who need support from the community to have the essentials needed to begin the school year.
This summer Act Together Ministries will host its ninth Tools 4 School event at His Hands Church in Woodstock. The annual event will provide new school supplies, haircuts, medical and dental screening to local children in need. At the event, the children and their families will enjoy lunch, along with games and crafts to get them excited about the new school year.
“The children leave Tools 4 School with a haircut, a backpack filled with school supplies and a smile on their face.” said director and Woodstock resident Heather Clark.
Act Together Ministries unofficially began in 2003 when newlyweds Brian and Heather Clark “adopted” some children for Christmas. The list of waiting children was long and the Clarks wanted to do more. They turned to their network of friends and contacts to help meet the needs of children needing sponsors that Christmas and every Christmas since. As the support grew, the Clarks would have their small townhome filled with new clothes, toys, and bikes. Heather, an elementary school teacher at the time, would get her students involved in shopping and wrapping the gifts. Brian would dress as Santa and the couple delivered gifts throughout north Atlanta.
The Clarks felt compelled to do more than provide gifts at Christmastime. Single mothers shared with them how they couldn’t maintain employment during the summer months when the costs of childcare increase. With support from the community, the Clarks were able to award scholarships to summer camps and extracurricular activities including karate, soccer, ballet, in home music lessons, Scouts, basketball and gymnastics.
In the spring of 2008, Heather began to struggle with chronic illness. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, among other ailments and ultimately had to give up her teaching career. While praying for direction in her life, she felt led to start a nonprofit. God led her path to cross with a man named Robert Covington who also suffered from Crohn’s.
As they got to know each other, and he learned about the Clarks’ desire to start a nonprofit, he provided the funding needed to get the nonprofit off the ground. Robert is still actively involved with Act Together Ministries and now serves as vice chair of the ministry’s board of directors.
Tools 4 School began with a handful of volunteers handing out school supplies to families in need. The event now involves hundreds of people. Doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and hair stylists volunteer their services. Other volunteers organize school supply drives, serve lunch at the event and play with the kids.
But Act Together’s work doesn’t just impact the children and families the ministry serves.
Liz Draper, who has volunteered year after year to help with Tools 4 School says the stories she hears from these families have a profound impact on the volunteers as well.
“When I talk with the mothers while their children are shopping, the mothers are filled with gratitude. It breaks my heart when they tell me without this ministry, they don’t know how they would provide the supplies for their children. They tell me this was an answer to their prayer.”
If you are interested in acting together to meet the needs of local foster and low income children, financial donations can be made online at www.actogetherministries.org.