INDEPENDENCE - Love Jesus; love like Jesus.
That's the mission at Lakeside Christian Church - and the driving force behind a group of church volunteers that is working to make a difference at Beechgrove Elementary School.
Since April, church volunteers have set their sights on service at the school. With backpack and school supply donations, new shoes and free haircuts for students, and a new tutoring and mentoring program in the works, the church has been a saving grace for the school, according to Family Resource Center Coordinator Julia Goodman.
"We feel like we've been blessed with the biggest gift," said Goodman, who has headed up the school's resource center for the past 12 years. "The church has done so much here in such a short time and become part of our school community."
Since more than half of the students at Beechgrove qualify for free and reduced lunch, and many of its families need assistance throughout the school year, the church's help is much needed - especially with recent budget cuts to her program, Goodman said.
"They helped us meet the needs of our families this year...and we couldn't have done it without them," she said. "It's been a miracle for us."
Lakeside volunteers' work has also extended to Beechgrove's teachers. Church members brought in breakfast for the school's faculty and staff, which is comprised of about 90 people, on the school's Records Day this year. And, during a special "clean-up" day in August, about 60 volunteers from the church helped landscape and paint the school, and helped teachers set up their classrooms for the new school year.
The church's involvement at Beechgrove is part of Lakeside's community focus, according to Community Involvement Minister Hugh Wicks. The growing church recently purchased property for future development near the school on Turkeyfoot Road, and while it's still undeveloped, Lakeside wanted reach out to its new neighbors early, he said.
"The school seemed like a great place to start, and Beechgrove has been a perfect fit for us," said Wicks. "The leadership there is exceptional, and the school has a great heart not just for the kids, but also for the community.
"We've just begun to develop a relationship, and we hope it's just the beginning."
The church's next project at Beechgrove is City Gospel Mission's Whiz Kid program, a literacy-based, one-to-one tutoring and mentoring program that connects church volunteers with at-risk youth throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The program will kick off later this month.
Aside from Lakeside's work at Beechgrove, and other local schools, the church also supports overseas missions and a variety of local missions, including Master Provisions, Fairhaven Rescue Mission, Ronald McDonald House and Action Ministries.
During its Community Impact Day back in August, more than 300 church members volunteered at sites across Northern Kentucky.
"The church has had a community focus for a long time...and we're trying to grow and develop that focus," said Wicks. "Missions don't have to be across the world; sometimes they can be right across the street."
For details about Lakeside Christian Church and its members' involvement in the community, visit www.lakeside.org.