School bus stop ministry keeps kids happy and full WSF

School children grab a asnack before heading to school. Andrea Gentry, a member of Wynne First UMC started a school bus stop snack program for local kids in the Wynne School District.
School children grab a asnack before heading to school. Andrea Gentry, a member of Wynne First UMC started a school bus stop snack program for local kids in the Wynne School District.
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For Andrea Gentry, a former teacher, kids have always been near and dear to her heart.

“I love helping people, and this was a neat and ongoing experience where I could help kids on a regular basis and eventually develop relationships with these kids,” Gentry said.

Gentry, a member of the First United Methodist Chnurch in Wynne, has organized and started a school bus stop ministry for the Wynne School District. She and other volunteers hand out snacks to kids once they reach their bus stop.

“Honestly, this area of town, (the kids) are just happy to have it and will take anything,” Gentry said. “They are so thankful. I’m hoping to get to know them a little better, build a relationship and eventually be a mentor-type person.

“The kids are very welcoming, and I get hugs every now and then.”

Two Volunteers help pass out snacks to kids during cold and wet weather.

Two Volunteers help pass out snacks to kids during cold and wet weather. Photo by Andrea Gentry. 

Gentry said the idea of the ministry stemmed from 200,000 Reasons initiative by the United Methodists of Arkansas. She said she received a grant of more than $1,000 in October, but thanks to donations and support, has not had to fully dip into the funds for the snacks.

“I have had great community support, and they have provided snacks for me,” she said. “They will buy them and give them to me.

“By sharing it on Facebook, and word of mouth, we have received wonderful community support. People will volunteer their time, or donate money or donate snacks for us to use. We have a closet full of snacks.

“It has relly been unbelievable the amount of support we have received. One of our Sunday School classes has committed to helping me on a monthly basis, once the grant money runs out.

“But I’m doing great. The community support we have is just amazing.”

“I see 50 to 60 kids in Perkin everyday, and I have been giving snacks to 20 kids at each stop.: Gentry said. “When deciding on where to be, we think about the area and what area of town needs it the most. We also wouldn’t want to post up where only one or two kids get off.”

“My mom manages an apartment complex (in Wynne) and it is mostly a low-income apartment complex” Shaw said. “We just had a feeling like we wanted to do something there and it just kind of went from there.”

Gentry said Chelsea Brawner, another member of United Church in Wynne, will begin volunteering for the ministry and will add a third stop. Gentry said the church has been really supportive.

“The church themselves hasn’t made a donation, yeet, but members and classes have stepped up and helped,” Gentry said. “Women from my church have volunteered their time and snacks and will help out regularly.”

“We don’t know their life,” Shaw said. “But to me, it is an easy way to reach out to other people and take a little time to build that trust with every single one of them.”

Sam Pierce, featured contributor, AR UM Magazine, Jan 2019 issue

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.