Each year, The United Church of Marco Island (UCMI) Missions Committee selects a local mission to dedicate a special Christmas offering. Donors can contribute to the offering throughout the month of December but on Christmas Eve100% of the contributions, collected at the 5pm and 7:30pm worship services, go directly to the special offering.
This year, the UCMI Missions Committee announced that the special Christmas Offering would benefit the emergency fund of Manatee Elementary School. Manatee is just off the island and many of its students have parents who provide our island services. Manatee has approximately 600 students, of which 90% are considered economically disadvantaged.
According to Mary Lill, UCMI Missions Committee Chair, UCMI has given to Manatee in the past, but this is the first time that the offering is part of an Emergency Fund to help with transportation and after school academic support.
Often, but especially during these trying times, the counselors, teachers, and administrators of Manatee Elementary meet with many students and families with a variety of needs. Debbie Eby, the guidance counselor at Manatee Elementary, shared many heart-wrenching stories with the UCMI congregation about the students and families that benefit from the emergency fund. Following Hurricane Irma, this emergency fund went towards necessary home repairs for some of the students. More recently, the emergency fund provided bikes to allow a family transportation to and from school. Debbie describes working with these families as a “very humbling experience.” Debbie Eby has been with the school for six years and to her, the kids are her family along with the wonderful teachers and parents.
According to Debbie, so many of their students go to a home where English is not the first language and where internet is not always available. And with COVID, they have a lot of students who have lost ground because of virtual learning. This emergency fund from UCMI is going to help take some of those struggling kids and invite them to an after school program. This after school program will be at least 3-4 days a week for an extra hour and a half of instruction. The fund will allow Manatee to get a teacher and possibly even a bus.
Debbie shared that the School District has provided internet Hotspot locations for some students with no internet connection but internet in some places is spotty, and glitches happen. The students had devices provided by the District but it was very difficult since the parents could not help due to language barriers. The parents don’t always understand how to use the platform that the students are using.
This year, The United Church of Marco Island congregation and friends of the church have raised $11,753 to benefit the emergency fund of Manatee Elementary. UCMI Missions Committee Chair, Mary Lill, along with UCMI Head Minister, Mark Williams, presented the check to Manatee Elementary School Guidance Counselor, Deborah Eby on January 13th.