By Glenn Hannigan
Editor, North Georgia Advocate
It’s a mission-oriented church that meets in rented space in Canton.
There are more empty seats than worshippers each Sunday when Liberty Hill UMC gathers in the spacious Cherokee High School auditorium. But that doesn’t mean the 160-member congregation is shy about taking on huge projects.
Indeed, Liberty Hill’s remarkable back-to-school ministry—Give a Kid a Chance —recently served 10 times more people than the membership of the church. Liberty Hill understands the benefits of developing strong partnerships.
In 2006, the Canton congregation began Give a Kid a Chance by partnering with two other Cherokee County churches. That first year, 100 needy children received backpacks filled with supplies, socks and underwear, haircuts, a hot lunch and medical screenings for vision, hearing, dental and scoliosis.
That successful first event provided a small glimpse of the extent of need in the county, and the future of the ministry.
Each year, Liberty Hill organizers have increased their support network—churches, individuals and local businesses —and their ability to support needy families. Organizers began meeting 10 months before the most recent event.
Last month, 2,200 students received fully-stocked backpacks, shoes, clothes, Bibles, medical screenings, haircuts and lunch. Cherokee’s Give a Kid a Chance has become so large it has expanded to two sites, one in the north part of the county, one in the south.
During the recent event, well-organized volunteers bustled from room to room, as focused and efficient as any thriving beehive.
Except a beehive is far more quiet.
“I am more amazed all the time,” said Liberty Hill member Cheryl Ruffer, president of Give a Kid a Chance. “We get to see a miracle every year. It is simply incredible to see how much this ministry has grown and how many people are willing to help out.
“To see the looks on the faces of the children makes it all worthwhile. It is something I will never grow tired of.”
Considering how rapidly the ministry has grown, how big will Give a Kid a Chance get? Is Ruffer concerned?
“There are 9,000 kids in the county who are on free or reduced lunch,” she said. “The need is great. But we’ll do whatever it takes to help everyone who asks.”
And, as is the case every year, Ruffer and her volunteers look for ways to improve the ministry.
“We are developing stronger relationships and contacts every year,” she said. “I’m already trying to figure out how we can get more corporate support next year.
“It is a constant learning process.”
For more information about Give a Kid a Chance, go to: www.giveakidachance.org. To start a Give a Kid a Chance event in your community, call Cheryl Ruffer at 678-372-9362.
This article appeared in the August 7, 2009 edition of the North Georgia Advocate. To subscribe or renew visit www.ngumc.org/advocate.