South Charlotte

Monroe church celebrates 125 years by donating shirts to school

As their church’s 125th anniversary approached, members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Monroe thought about ways to celebrate.

A special service, guest pastor and a covered-dish meal were a few of the things on their list.

And so was a unique challenge.

“We challenged the congregation, since it’s the 125th anniversary, to bring in at least 125 shirts,” said Linda McCoy, who chairs St. Luke’s outreach committee.

The shirts would go to students at nearby East Elementary School. Students there are required to wear a plain white, blue or red polo shirt with khaki pants, she said. But buying those items can be a challenge for families with students at the school.

“A good amount of our population does struggle with obtaining school uniforms for kids,” said East Elementary School Counselor Paul Debnam. “We are a Title I school, which translates into a low socioeconomic population. Close to 98 percent of our students have free breakfast and lunch. And we’re dealing with students who come from broken families, who live in shelters, who co-habitat with siblings, too.”

Pastor Kenneth Fink said the church decided the shirt challenge would be a good way to celebrate the life of the church.

St. Luke’s Lutheran was organized on Aug. 4, 1889. Coincidentally, Aug. 4 this year was also the first day of school for the year-round school. McCoy, Fink and other church leaders arranged with Debnam and his colleague Jennifer Lodge, also a counselor, to present the shirts to the school later in the month after things had settled down.

By Aug. 14, 139 shirts had been donated, Fink said.

East Elementary has about 500 students, Debnam said, so St. Luke’s contribution will provide shirts for more than 25 percent of them.

Debnam said he was very happy when he learned of the church’s anniversary challenge.

“It is much appreciated and very blissful to know how much community sponsors want to help East,” he said.

Even before the anniversary challenge, St. Luke’s had a history of supporting the school. Members have donated uniform shirts in the past and also routinely supply food for needy students through a backpack ministry, McCoy said.

Debnam said a large number of students depend on the school to provide their main source of nutrition, and food-filled backpacks that go home with students on Fridays helps provide sustenance through the weekend.

“I do just want to give the utmost thanks to St. Luke’s church for all they’ve done,” Debnam said. “They are part of our East family.”

“We’re here to serve,” McCoy said. “That’s what a church is all about.”