Chickamauga Elementary Students Learn to ‘LOL’
Christmas stockings for kids in the LOL Club at Elizabeth Lee UMC.
By Shane Foley
Chattanooga Times Free Press
Students in Chickamauga are learning a new meaning for LOL, courtesy of a new outreach ministry being organized by Elizabeth Lee United Methodist Church.
For the ministry volunteers and students, LOL has come to mean Love Out Loud.
“When we were trying to come out with a name, we were thinking of an acronym that kids use a lot,” said coordinator Connie Capehart, who helps organize Love Out Loud in conjunction with co-coordinators Janet Landers, Becky Ray and C.J. Catlett. “LOL stood out, and when someone suggested ‘Love Out Loud,’ we knew it was the right one.”
The ministry provides 32 K-5 students from Chickamauga Elementary School the opportunity, once per week, to come together for extracurricular learning, enrichment, and activities based on their individual needs, in a Christian environment. The children were referred to Love Out Loud by their teachers and guidance counselor because of their lack of opportunities for after-school activities and extracurricular activities, Capehart said.
“We started in September, but we worked for months gathering referrals. Our space is a little limited, though we want to take more next year,” said Landers. “We’re looking to make a significant difference in the community, and we’re trying to accommodate as many children as possible.”
“We got a much bigger response than we initially expected,” added Capehart.
Love Out Loud usually averages around 14 or 15 volunteers per week. The volunteers help prepare food for the students, organize events and run activities.
“Some of the teachers have told me that this is the first time they’ve seen a particular child smile,” said Landers. “We’re giving the kids a feeling of belonging to something special. It gives them something fun to talk to their peers about. We’re really trying to build relationships and a sense of wellness.”
She and Capehart expressed their gratitude for the school’s principal, Jeff Sikes, and counselor, Beth Guthrie, for supporting the ministry’s efforts and assisting them in getting started, along with everyone else in the school system who has helped Love Out Loud.
Both women expressed how positive the community has been toward the program. According to Landers, Love Out Loud has grown almost exclusively through word of mouth, and the response from those around her has been “almost overwhelming.”
“I don’t think we realized how important and necessary all this was until we got in the middle of it,” said Capehart. “There’s been a real need for it all along, and we didn’t recognize that need.”
The coordinators said they were excited about the Discovery Museum coming to do an event for the ministry in the near future, just one example of the types of organizations and activities from which the children benefit. Other enrichment programs have included storytelling sessions and the local Gordon Lee High School FFA club doing a presentation on agriculture and where food comes from.
Although Love Out Loud is looking to grow quickly, they said they would be willing to help any other organization get started on its own after-school enrichment program.
“We’d love to share this with someone else who can also benefit the community,” Capehart said.
This article originally appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press and is republished with permission.