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A Farmington church’s annual outreach to a local intermediate school has proven to be a blessing for members of the congregation as well as the educators after a strong bond has developed between the two over the last three or four years.

Several years ago, along with other churches in the area, Solid Rock Family Church agreed to “adopt” a local school. In Solid Rock’s case, the adoptee they chose was Lincoln Intermediate School. Both the church and school hit it off immediately and the relationship has remained “a match made in heaven” ever since.

The church, under the direction of co-pastors Darrell and Darlene Rhodes, decided to open a one-day “store” at Christmastime where the school’s teachers and administrators could pick up class supplies, as well as items for their families, at absolutely no cost.

“A lot of the churches are doing different things for their schools, but we decided to do something before Christmas because we just felt that Christmastime would maybe be a good time to help with some of their expenses, said Pastor Darlene Rhodes. You know, teachers are out a lot of money. It’s a commonly known fact that most of them will spend over $700 of their own money every year to help with their classrooms.

“So, we just took them on and have developed a really good relationship with the staff — which is absolutely amazing! They come in and shop items from several different sources that Solid Rock has been collecting for the past year. We save up for this. It’s a real big deal for us.”

While there are a multitude of school supply items available to choose from like backpacks and reams of paper, here’s a short list of other things available for the teachers to take home for their personal use: bottled water, sparkling water, Gatorade, sea salt rub, ramen noodles, cans of soup (cheese, rice and French onion), potato mixes, breakfast cereal, cookies, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, candles, scrapbooking materials, wrapping paper, reading glasses, eyelash curlers and even women’s clothes.

“It’s personal for them,” Rhodes said. “We want them to have things personally.

The smiling educators can be seen pushing their Walmart shopping carts around the church’s multifunctional auditorium filled with tables and tables of free items to select from, Rhodes said the folks who work at Lincoln Intermediate aren’t the only ones who receive a blessing while participating in the event.

“Our workers get excited,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, let’s get that for the teacher store!’ So, that’s what we do. We work on it and have a lot of volunteers around here that run it and work so hard getting it ready. But we’ve done it because of them — because we appreciate the teachers in the city and around our area. They’re great people. We appreciate the staff… the office workers. We appreciate the principals… the vice principals.

“I have to say that Lincoln has some of the very best, as far as we’re concerned because we’ve gotten to know them, and we really appreciate them. Mr. [Matthew] Boyer, which is the principal, and Mr. [Aaron] Bryant, which is the vice principal, will be here tonight. The majority of the teachers — unless they had something with their children that they can’t — will come and they’ll shop and then we feed them.”

That’s right. Not only does the church offer a store chock full of all kinds of free items for the home and classroom, but it provides an incredible variety of meats, breads and desserts.

“They sit at the tables and they get to talk and fellowship. They work hard all day long. They get to see each other. They’ll say little things they don’t have time to take and enjoy each other as a staff. That’s one of the things that they told us the first year that they came — that they enjoyed that part of it so much and so they do that. They sit, they eat, and we make coffee drinks. We have a coffee shop here and all of the teachers get a free drink of their choice. There will be latees and smoothies and, I don’t know, whatever else the coffee shop can dream up.”

The teachers — many of whom have come to the “store” for multiple years — are filled with gratitude for what Solid Rock Fellowship is providing for them.

“I didn’t know what to expect the first time we came,” said school librarian Faith Gann. “They said, ‘Here’s a shopping cart,’ and you just go through. This is a blessing. It’s so amazing. I was telling [Pastor Rhodes] today that one year they had a lot of ink pens. Every time I get one out, I think about their church and how they’ve blessed us throughout the year. I mean, it’s just kind of a reminder that we have somebody supporting us and praying for us and thinking about us.”

Fifth grade reading teacher Jennifer Aholt describes the store as “wonderful” and a “blessing” for she and her fellow Lincoln Intermediate teachers.

“When I go through here, I always think about our kids,” she said. “Some of the things we use personally and some things we use in our classroom to help the kids. We’ve gotten things like poly binders that we use in the classroom and even some personal care items we can use in our rooms and with our students. This just reminds us that somebody cares about us and thinks about us. It’s just a good feeling to be here with them. They are so warm and welcoming and caring. They are amazing.”

Bret Merseal, a fifth-grade math teacher, was busy taking advantage of the wide selection of items when he was asked his opinion of the church and its store for Lincoln Intermediate.

“I think it’s amazing that they do this for the teachers,” he said. “They do a really nice job helping to take care of us. They’re trying to give back and it’s much appreciated.”

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Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or kjenkins@farmingtonpressonline.com

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