Giving Back to the Community for Advent

Katy Allen, Director of Children’s Ministries at First Presbyterian in Arlington Heights shared with us how the children of that congregation used the season of Advent to give back to their community.
December 16 was designated as the Advent Day of Giving. Each Sunday school class was given a donation theme and asked to bring in donations around that theme. Preschoolers were asked to bring in donations for a local pet shelters, The Buddy Foundation. First, Arlington Heights supported them in the past, and as a local shelter in Arlington Heights, they are always happy to receive donations from the kids.
The Kindergarten/First Grade class was asked to bring in donations of breakfast items (dry cereal, oatmeal, breakfast bars, syrup, pancake mix, biscuit mix). Second/Third Grade had lunch items. This broad category included anything that someone might enjoy for lunch. Fourth/Fifth graders had dinner items. Again, this category allowed for a lot of flexibility in donations because dinner encompasses so many different types of foods. All food donations were given to the Wheeling Township Food Pantry, which services residents in all or parts of Wheeling, Prospect Heights, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, and Mount Prospect.
On the morning of December 16, kids came in with bags and boxes full of food. They were displayed them on the table in our gathering space, and time was taken to acknowledge the generosity of the children and families. The importance of sharing what we have with others was also discussed.
For the past three years, the First, Arlington Heights Sunday School program has focused very heavily on Jesus’ teachings of caring for all, and the kids have really absorbed this message in their hearts and hands. Many of the Children’s Ministries lessons center around giving back, helping others, and learning what it means to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.

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The Inclusive Collective (IC) is a vibrant and active faith community for university students based at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Each spring, we hold a Justice Retreat to equip and inspire our students to pursue equity, inclusion, and human flourishing as they follow Jesus. Hear about our retreat from Matthew Adams, a senior at Wheaton College and member of the IC:

“Feeling alone and without a home is certainly a feeling not foreign to me. Fortunately, I have found a beautiful home within the Inclusive Collective. Growing up, the only spaces where I engaged in topics of activism, community development, and racism were in debate and the classroom. Talking about these issues within the church is a brand new experience for me.  The 2018 Spring Justice Retreat was a refreshing and informative weekend that pushed me in the pursuit of justice.

I firmly believe that the center of the Gospel is justice. This plain and simple fact was emulated within our retreat. One of the most poignant examples of justice was shown to me when we visited Reesheda Graham-Washington at L!VE Cafe located in Oak Park. This cafe is actively developing community through funneling its profits back to the people of Austin to create jobs for those in great need.  Reesheda’s love for Christ fuels her passion for justice. She showed me how important it is to use your academics and accolades as tools in your toolbox instead of weapons. We need to constantly use our wide array of tools to engage with our communities. 

Moving forward, it is incredible to think of the vast amount of ways we can push for justice. Even though there are many ways to push for justice, we do not have the luxury to have decision paralysis. It is imperative that we constantly take steps forward in justice. Even in the little day-to-day battles against microaggressions, we are fighting for justice in dismantling stereotypes that dehumanize people into tropes. This retreat was incredibly life-giving and will inform how I engage with justice.”

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