To understand how a Sunday school teacher’s $10 gift to one student resulted in the purchase of $1,865 worth of life-changing items from the Lutheran World Relief Gifts catalog, you have to start with Marlene Perrotta.
Marlene is the director of the Upper Elementary Class Faith Formation class at Morning Star Lutheran Church, in Matthews, North Carolina. About two years ago she started a program of giving each student $10 on her or his birthday. The deal was the money had to go toward helping someone.
This year, one of her fifth graders, 10-year-old Grace Baker, suggested that the group of 10 students pool their money.
With $100 to work with, the young philanthropists decided they wanted to choose an organization or cause that would make the most of their gift. Pastor Naomi Carriker met with the class and gave them some ideas, including Lutheran World Relief’s Gifts catalog, which includes a range of practical and valuable gifts that improve the lives of people living in poverty around the world.
“There are so many people who don’t have the things they need and they need help,” said Grace. “Me and my class decided to give to Lutheran World Relief, so they could give to the people who don’t have as much as us.”
Then, Grace suggested an idea to further multiply the gift: they asked the entire congregation to join them in giving. The goal was $500.
The class put together a special presentation for the congregation. They laid out what they hoped to accomplish, what some of the gifts were, and how families might use them.
Lilly Grace Treese, 10, said going before the congregation was her favorite part. “Presenting to the congregation and asking for their help. It’s good to help people in other countries,” she said.
When the collection concluded, the students had $1,767 in donations! Combined with their initial $100 from Marlene Perrotta, the class of 10 students now had enough to purchase two cows, a piglet, a hen and chicks, medical supplies, a smokeless cook stove, two fruit tree seedlings, playground toys, an emergency water filter and the shipment of 12 quilts. They even donated the remaining balance – $2.61 – to Lutheran World Relief to be used where needs are greatest.
While the students were proud that they helped other people in need, they also took away other things from working together.
“My favorite part was choosing the piglet,” said Lauren Roberts, 11.
For Victoria Hollingsworth, 10, it was the fun of working together. “We got to know each other better in our class; everyone was motivated; the whole class was involved, and we knew we could be the leaders for the project,” she said. “It was cool that the whole congregation wanted to help us and help others around the world.”
Marlene said her students have talked about the impact of the gifts. “We [talked] a lot about how people would feel when they receive these gifts and how grateful they would be. We tried to put ourselves in their shoes of what their needs were,” she said
The kids of Morning Star are a great example of the amazing things God does through all people — big and small, young and old.
If you’d like to harness the group power of giving in your congregation, consider hosting an LWR Gifts Drive. This downloadable resource makes it easy for your congregation to spread the word, collect gifts, and transform the lives of people in need around the world!