While the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” may originate from an old African proverb, students and caregivers within the Greenfield School District can also stake a claim in the saying, thanks to the New Directions Youth Ministry, a deep adult volunteer base, and the awarding of a grant that helped support the ministry’s summer programming.
“It was a remarkable eight weeks,” said New Directions Director Tonia McLanahan, who developed the Discover, Inspire, Grow Groups (DIGGs) that created a wealth of opportunities for students in grades 4-12. “The students had unbelievable opportunities to explore and grow in their faith while pursuing various interests. It only happened because of the incredible generosity of many adults who shared their time, skills, talents and expertise with them.”
McLanahan was joined by three college-age interns to support the plethora of activities.
She pointed to the $4,000 grant from The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) as a key element for under-girding the DIGGs as the money was used to support the intern staffing ($3,000), which also gave the three interns an opportunity to learn and grow. Part of the grant was used to purchase equipment such as a badminton net and a parachute and supplies like yarn, paint and baking goods.
“The grant from FAO was a tremendous blessing, a gift from God,” said McLanahan.
While the grant supported the New Direction’s DIGGs that directly benefited so many students, it also provided an opportunity for the interns. “I really enjoyed my internship and appreciate how it helped me grow as an adult and as a Christ-follower,” said Jase Allison.
This second summer of DIGGs through the 33-year-old New Directions ministry included a wide range of opportunities for students, such as Mystery Mondays, Monday Morsels, Smorgasbord, Tuesdays R4 Tweens, Soul Food, knitting, basketball, joining the First United Methodist Church with Praising the Lord Actively in the Yard (PLAY), Make It Take It, Maker Space, hiking, High School Hang Out and Explore and Share.
Ninety-three students participated in DIGGs during the eight-week run in June and July, with 63 adults either leading or supporting a DIGG, all spending valuable time with the students. For example, Tuesdays R4 Tweens ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Tuesday in a day camp format, with a team of eight adults helping on a regular basis. Nine other adults led special themed events during Tuesdays R4 Tweens, and some of those events included a field trip to the Presbyterian Church to learn about the church’s stained-glass windows, baking heart-shaped cookies and delivering the treats to neighbors of New Directions, creating string art, tie-dying shirts, dissecting owl pellets and much more. Every Tuesday had a theme based on the Bible’s fruits of the Spirit passage from Galatians 5, so the activities were intertwined with the day’s Bible study.
“My daughter absolutely loved this program,” a parent of a Tuesdays R4 Tweens participant said.
“I loved all my time at New Directions and looked forward to it all week,” a student said. “I can’t wait to go there next time.”
Part of what McLanahan shared in her FAO grant application was that “DIGGs are an initiative to build trust and relationships within the community among people of different ages and perspectives through exposure to a wide variety of shared experiences.”
The eight weeks of DIGGs were filled with a wide range of growth opportunities that included leading BINGO and eating lunch with older adults at the Highland County Community Action Senior Nutrition Program, learning how to bake pies from scratch and making homemade noodles. Students engaged in team-building opportunities and creative writing, and some helped lead worship services at two nursing homes. They made gourds into bird houses, created canvas drip art and made pillows. Students learned about bee keeping and visited an alpaca farm. They also learned about a vision-impaired adult’s use of her Braille Bible and students played disc golf. There was so much more, too.
Students who participated ate lunch through HCCAO’s summer feeding program.
To learn more about New Directions and how to get involved, including becoming a financial supporter, check out NDYM.org as well as the ministry’s Facebook page.
For more information about FAO, visit www.appalachianohio.org.
Information for this story was provided by Tonia McLanahan, New Directions youth director.