The following article appeared in Clay Today on April 21, 2011

Church Group Helps Teachers who Give


ORANGE PARK — When the Rev. Dr. Alesia Ford-Burse attended a recent Clay County School Board meeting, she said she was moved to learn that teachers spend their own money for supplies for students in their classrooms. 

As Florida budgets and programs are cut, Clay County schools are being affected, and Pastor Burse said she wanted to do something to help. 

She discussed the situation with member of her church, St. James AME Church of Orange Park. They identified three local elementary schools that they wanted to “adopt:” S. Bryan Jennings Elementary School, Grove Park Elementary School, andW.E. Cherry Elementary School.

 So, during the March faculty meeting at S. Bryan Jennings Elementary School, the pastor and members of her church surprised the faculty by bringing in breakfast and asking the teachers to make a “wish list” of items that they need in their classrooms, which the church would buy for them. 

“It was very well received, and they were very appreciative.  In fact, one of the teachers got teary eyed just thinking about somebody taking the time to appreciate them,” said Pastor Burse. 

Dr. Michael Henry, principal at the school said, “The teachers were elated.  They (the church) came in with a breakfast, and this was right after the school board meeting that they had where the teachers didn’t get a raise. . . The morale in the district has really been low, so this was an unexpected way of showing appreciation for the teachers after going through the fiscal crisis.” 

On April 7, Pastor Burse and church members arrived at the school’s faculty meeting to deliver the supplies that were on the teachers’ wish lists.  

Angela Love, who teaches gifted students in grades 1 – 6, said some of the things on her list included ziplock bags, hand sanitizer, cap erasers, pipe cleaners, and spiral notebooks. 

“I’m so grateful that members of our community would reach out and help the kids,” she said. “They are supporting us and supporting our kids, and we appreciate everything they do.” 

Dr. Henry said the response from the faculty has been very positive. “We are a Title 1 school, so 67 percent of population gets free or reduced lunch. . . an economic disadvantaged population.” 

He said the teachers had supplies at the beginning of the year but they were running out, and they have been purchasing items on their own. 

“This has been a real shot in the arm for the teachers,” he said. 

Pastor Burse said her church also honors Clay County teachers in other ways.  

“Every year, our church has a teachers’ appreciation in May, and we invite teachers that our students in our church identify as their ‘teacher of the year,’ and we have a little appreciation and give them things of that nature,” she said. 

Next, they will help the other two adopted schools and will use funds from the church’s outreach and benevolent money as well as donations to help all three schools in the future. 

“This is not a one time thing- – We are going to continue this,” she said.