BY ELIZABETH MITCHELL |
Winston-Salem has always been my home. Growing up in the Moravian Church, I always felt a call to missions. In college, I had dreams of traveling the world as a missionary. I majored in Religious Studies and Spanish, and contacted the Board of World Mission about opportunities through the Antioch Project. Long story short, a variety of circumstances got in the way of my plans. I have a friend who says that we make plans and God laughs. Well, God was laughing this time. I’m sure that His plans will continue to surprise me, but for now, Winston-Salem remains my home.
What has not changed is my calling to mission. After a few different steps in my career, I landed at Imprints Cares which is a non-profit serving Forsyth County. Our mission is to enrich children’s development while supporting their families on the journey of parenthood. Growing up in Winston-Salem, I thought I knew my town fairly well. What I am finding now is that I only knew a very small fraction of the city. Winston-Salem is one of the worst cities in the nation for childhood poverty and childhood hunger. Growing up, I always felt like Winston-Salem was full of opportunities, but that is simply not true for everyone.
In my job, I get to work closely with families in poverty. One family that will forever remain close to my heart is Jennifer. Jennifer was a single, working parent to a two-year-old named Michelle. Growing up, Jennifer had a difficult childhood. She liked school and was successful in school, but she had no support at home. She got tired of going to school in dirty clothes and was overwhelmed by personal circumstances, and eventually dropped out to get a job. Jennifer did not want the same for Michelle.
Jennifer was referred to our program by her daughter’s pediatrician, and I started visiting with her twice a month. At visits with Jennifer, I brought her books and talked with her about the importance of early childhood interaction and development. Despite daily struggles, Jennifer made interaction with Michelle a priority. Every day she made sure to find time to connect and play with Michelle. One of her favorite routines was reading together at bedtime. They read Goodnight Moon until they both had it memorized and could recite it by heart. This daily interaction has put Michelle on the path of success. Three years have passed since I first met Jennifer. Michelle will enter Kindergarten next year and has already started reading books by herself! Jennifer has been working towards her GED and is one test away from completion and finally having her high school diploma. Having the support of Imprints Cares gave her the resources and confidence she needed to reach these accomplishments.
With support, many more children could see the same success as Jennifer and Michelle. Unfortunately, when families are working hard just to keep the lights on and food on the table, books, and playtime often fall to the wayside. That’s where Imprints Cares steps in to help. We work together with families to help them find ways to interact and play with their children, while also connecting them to resources to help with overall family well-being. Every day, I get the privilege of meeting with parents and children in their homes and communities, supporting them with activities, resources, and information as they work towards goals for their children and themselves.
I am so grateful to work with an organization that allows me to use my calling to mission to help families, whether that’s by connecting them to resources for basic essentials, helping them find transportation to doctor’s appointments, or putting a book in the hands of a child. God is present in every small, daily interaction. I always knew I was called to mission, and I can think of no better mission than serving the community that I call home.
The BCM has partnered with Reach Out & Read again this year for Lent. Reach Out & Read is a program of Imprints Cares!, that incorporates books into pediatric care, encouraging families to read together. They provide children’s books as a clinical tool in pediatric offices serving low-income families.
To help, you can donate to the virtual book drive! Just a $2 donation can buy 1 book for a child! Contact the BCM for more information about this program.
About the Author
Elizabeth Mitchell is a Family Educator and the Reach Out and Read Coordinator for Imprints Cares, a
non-profit serving families throughout Forsyth County. She is a lifelong Moravian who grew up as a
member of Olivet Moravian Church and is a current member at Kernersville Moravian Church.
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