An honor bestowed upon North Side Baptist Church for a “job well done” by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is not only a reflection of the church and its dedication to Weatherford ISD, it’s a testament to its members.In a statement issued by the TEA, the organization cites that Texas businesses, both large and small, are an integral part of many Texas public schools. From mentoring to donations to lunchtime visits in recognition of this support, the State Board of Education recently named 12 Texas employers as recipients of the 2013 Employers for Education Excellence (EEE) Award. Designed to promote more community involvement in the public schools, the EEE Award recognizes employers who implement policies that encourage employee involvement in school activities."Congratulations to these businesses on this recognition of their support of our Texas public schools,” said Barbara Cargill, chair of the State Board of Education. “I would like to thank these employers and their employees for taking the time to mentor and work with these students and their schools.”The EEE Awards are given in three categories – Gold, Silver and Bronze. For the 2013 award, 11 companies received a gold award and one company received a silver award.According to the TEA, winners in the Gold Award category have implemented policies that: encourage and support employees who attend parent-teacher conferences; encourage employees to volunteer in school activities; and support employees that participate in student mentoring programs.North Side Baptist Church received such an award. TEA’s recognition statement said, “North Side Baptist Church, under the leadership of Senior Pastor Van Houser, is committed to supporting the children of the Weatherford Independent School District.” For the past five years, members of the church have mentored students at Seguin Elementary School, providing extra academic and social support to children who might need a little extra help or a positive adults role model.Three years ago, they started the Backpacks for Children Program. Every Friday, they deliver backpacks filled with food to last the weekend for Seguin students. On Mondays, they return to collect the empty backpacks so they can refill them for the following weekend. When the program first started, the church provided meals for 15 students each week. The program grew quickly and today, it provides backpacks filled with food for more than 100 children each week. When the holidays arrive, or spring break rolls around, North Side Baptist is there to provide additional food. They also provide clothing, shoes, supplies and even provide incentives to encourage children to attend school.“The 2013 Employers for Education Excellence (EEE) Award from the Texas Education Agency was a testimony to the heart of the people of North Side Baptist Church,” Houser said. “To be included in the list of those businesses and organizations who received the award is truly an honor.”He said that North Side Baptist is a church that truly believes a local church should make a local impact. “The congregation seeks out opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those fighting financial, emotional, physical and, of course, spiritual needs,” he said.He added that the families at Seguin Elementary are the families of their neighborhood. “That makes them even more of a blessing, to help our neighbors,” Houser said. “Seventy-one percent of the children who attend Seguin are participants in the breakfast and lunch program and depend on the school for nutritional needs. Teachers’ notes of ‘thanks for the providing the meals’ share the difference they see when these children are given the weekend provision. They are much more attentive and alert for their studies.”Charlotte Lagrone, Executive Directror of Communications for the Weatherford Independent School District, said she’s thankful for North Side Baptist.“We can’t imagine what it’s like to be a child in a family that doesn’t have food for a weekend, or to be a child who looks forward to school, not because of the learning or the friendships, but because that’s where you can eat breakfast and lunch,” Lagrone said. “Weatherford ISD is extremely grateful to North Side Baptist Church for identifying this critical need and then creating a solution to support this need.”She said the Packs of Love program has since been replicated by five other churches who are serving additional elementary campuses. More than 300 children each week benefit because of the program started by North Side Baptist Church in their partnership with Seguin Elementary.“Every week they make a difference in the lives of our children,” she said.Heading up the program is Angela Wood and Beth Thompson under the supervision of Houser; Executive Pastor Keith Warren; Missions Director John Dennie; and Children's Minister Brian McKay. Thompson said Wood has been involved with both programs since the beginning.“I started volunteering with the Packs of Love program a couple months after it's inception and the mentoring program that following year,” Thompson said. “We have been co-coordinating both programs since late 2011.” Both women say they are honored to have been able to publicize the importance of showing the love of Christ through their actions, not just words.“We are hopeful that any attention received from this award will shed a light on the very real struggles that the children in our community are facing every day,” Wood and Thompson said.Both women said they are very passionate about these ministries and “thrilled” to see their community come together as one to address these needs.“We truly believe it is not the work of one church, but the work of ‘the church’ that will change our world,” Wood said.Others taking home the award were Capital One Bank – San Antonio; City of Austin; and H-E-B – San Antonio, to name a few.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancewinter