St Paul AME Jacksonville Meeting the Needs of Students

The Reverend Marvin Zanders’s vision of service was personified to his congregants at a recent worship service. Pastor Zanders, along with the James L. Williams, Sr. Lay Organization, has embarked on a mission to ensure academic achievement of students at William M. Raines Senior High School through tangible gifts to the families of these young people. Hundreds of food items and personal hygiene products have been donated by church members to what Raines High School calls “the Mini Mart.”

The donations are used for snacks during testing as well as take home care packages for the families. Jacqueline Brown, Communities in School Coordinator at Raines High School said, “One thing is for sure, students cannot concentrate on their studies if they are hungry.” She thanked St. Paul AME Church for their generosity in a special presentation during the worship service. The Reverend Zanders commented that the church motto is “not just a tagline on paper but a living, breathing mission to share Christ and meet the needs of those that are hurting among us starting right in our own community.”

Known for gifts to schools during seasonal times of the year, the Reverend Zanders shifted the focus encouraging the lay members to think long-range and outside of the box. Thelma Johnson, the James L. Williams, Sr. Lay Organization President said, “Reverend Zanders told us that giving gifts to the children at Christmas wasn’t enough, we could do more.” More they did. Donations from the “Waste Not Want Not” project along with the items from the church have yielded a market which stays stocked and is readily accessible to students and their families.

Two families attested to how the Mini Mart has helped them with stirring testimonies as to the struggles their families faced but the gratitude they felt for the donations they received. Pastor Zanders explained that “it’s not about a handout, but a hand up” to those in need. There are times in all of our lives when “life happens” and it’s in those moments that we can be the light to others by doing good.

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