Ten years of first days by Michelle Humble

Ten years ago, Sarah Kropf had been introduced to the Edward “Peel” Coleman community center through volunteering there with another program. Students often came to the program from hanging out in the center, playing in the gym, or walking from local homes. As they arrived it became clear that homework hadn’t been completed, snacks were not had, along with many other needs. As relationships formed, Tiqvah Hands of Hope was born. Our first first day was had as we expanded programming to cover three days for a small group of young elementary age students. 

Every following first day it seemed to expose a new need, a new future, a new direction for our kids and their families. We went from first through third grade and expanded through fifth and now find ourselves serving all the way up through high school. We moved from the community center to Sherrick Road Church of God, to St. Pauls Episcopal Church, to Christ Presbyterian. We provided two enrichment opportunities, four, and now as many as we can get our hands on. One of the funniest comparisons is to the dinner portion of our program. The community center we started in had only a small prep kitchen with limited resources. Often times meals were donated or you would find our fearless leader in the tiny kitchen trying to prepare a meal for 30 people using a tiny single stove. Now we pay a food coordinator and have access to a professional grade kitchen. We went from having NO paid staff but several committed and generous volunteers, to now being able to provide six team leaders, a site director, and executive director to mentor our children on top of those incredible volunteers. There have been faces that have been around since the beginning and faces that are new and exciting. 

Through it all there have been some incredible constants. Every first day the students are met with cheers and excitement from the staff and volunteers. They are introduced to a person who will spend the whole year pouring into them, showing them the love of Christ, and walking with them as they gain the necessary tools to succeed in school and life. Our kids are offered resources that go beyond the tangible but include the tangible. 

Above all, God has lead the way and made possible the seemingly IMPOSSIBLE. We were reminded every September of how incapable we are but how strong He is. It never fails that the moment we felt unsure of how things would come together, God told us to watch and learn. 

As we celebrate the first day of programming that happened this week, we are not just excited about all we are certainly going to see God do this year. We also celebrate the past first days that have paved the way for this one to take place. It is hard to imagine that there have been ten, but not hard to imagine the many more God will provide.