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Finding ways to SHINE

Volunteers from New City Church stand with bags of food packed to donate to Mission Avenue Elementary School families, which it partners with through Shine Partnership. (Courtesy of Shine Partnership

Volunteers from Iglesia Ciudad de Gracia ready to hand out boxes at Kennedy Middle School. (Courtesy of Shine Partnership)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

In its way, Shine Partnership has always tried to go with the flow.

The Albuquerque-based nonprofit, which pairs local Christian churches with high-poverty local schools, has always tried to match resources with needs, Executive Director Lisa Fuller said. Del Norte Baptist, for example, is home to a number of older congregants only too happy to spend time reading to children at their partner school, Governor Bent Elementary. Some churches send members to be classroom volunteers, while others focus efforts on preparing weekend food bags for kids to take home.

“We try to be a really flexible resource for the school,” Fuller said.

So, when Albuquerque Public Schools sent its students home in mid-March for what would turn out to be the rest of the school year, it quickly became apparent that reading and tutoring were out – at least for the short term – and food assistance was more immediately in.

Fuller said APS reached out to her in short order about whether churches could step up food provision measures. APS itself had weekday meal pickup sites for children’s families, but worried about whether kids would be getting enough to eat over the weekend.

“We started new weekend sites at (several) schools (where) we didn’t have them before,” Fuller said.

Food bags usually consist of two simple breakfasts and two simple lunches for a family of four people, Fuller said.

At the moment, Fuller said she’s looking for more churches who want to partner with APS Title I schools. Fifteen local churches are partnered with an APS Title I school; another 20 to 25 schools Shine has met with are interested, Fuller said.

“The need is there,” she said.

Shine partner churches must be comfortable working with the organization’s model, which means no proselytizing, but a dedication to “love and serve.” Shine focuses on student enrichment, family development and teacher support. Churches whose members are interested in learning more can visit shineabq.org for more details.

Fuller said that, for the next few months, Shine is working on identifying other ways partner churches that can step up and help schools through a program called “No Family Forgotten.” As part of that program, Shine partners identify a boundary map of their school’s neighborhood to try and reach out strategically to families to better learn how to help.

“It is important for us to hear first-hand from families and listen to their stories. We want them to identify what is needed and we want to work with the families in that neighborhood so that no one is forgotten,” Fuller wrote in an email. “I believe during this time many families will fall through the cracks and we don’t want to see that happen in our schools.”

While food is a focus at the moment, Fuller said Shine’s long-term goals go far beyond.

“Our real goal is to do whatever we can to support a school and really fighting generational poverty,” she said.

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