Blaze Church helps teachers in Flanders “start from scratch”
“How about we bless the teachers? Pastor Keith Indovino of Blaze Church in Flanders wondered this year, considering an annual back-to-school giving program.
In the past, congregants filled backpacks for pupils at Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside, where some 68% of pupils are entitled to free or reduced price lunches, indicating a high level of poverty , according to the website primaryschools.org.
“Every year we contact the school to see if there is a need.” Indovino explained.
Hearing that the school had already received a large donation of supplies for the children, the pastor wondered, “How about we give every teacher a ‘Start Fresh’ kit?” Seeking to maximize their outreach efforts, congregants turned to teachers.
Teachers spend so much throughout the year out of their own pockets, the pastor pointed out.
“They buy supplies, they help students… We started having this vision, what if we gave every teacher a Start Fresh kit? Just start the year off with fresh, cool supplies for you that you’ll enjoy – things that will make them smile on day one.
The kits would include items such as energy drinks and markers, planners and Chap Stick, folders and mints, as well as a $50 Walmart gift card.
The message to educators is “There is a church that has your back,” Indovino said.
Recognizing the poverty level of many students, Blaze Church connects with the administration throughout the year, providing food on Thanksgiving, gifts on Christmas, and more.
Directing efforts towards teachers also helps students.
But a surprise awaited the pastor when he visited the school last week to speak to officials from the Start Fresh program.
Indovino remembers talking to assistant manager Alison Conroy.
“I told her what we wanted to do, and she said, ‘Wait. For each teacher? You know we have many teachers. And I said, ‘Just let me know the number, what’s that around 30?'”
Indovino learned that they would need to create 59 Start Fresh kits.
“Blaze Church will make it happen,” he promised. “In my head, I was thinking ‘God, you have to make it happen. “”
The church is in partnership with Flanders Riverside Northampton Civic Association on the program. Together with the church and Riverside Rediscovered, FRNCA has participated in the backpacking program for the past five years, Vice President Angela Huneault informed, calling the effort a “privilege.”
“This year we were honored to partner with Blaze Church to bless teachers,” Huneault continued. “Teachers see the needs of their students on a daily basis. We know how much they take out of their own funds to support their class and their students. This is an amazing, joyful and caring opportunity for us, the community, to show our teachers how much they are truly appreciated.
“FRNCA has partnered with Blaze to provide educational support to local children for many years and the relationship has been great for the community,” added longtime member Vincent Taldone. “We are delighted that Pastor Keith and his congregation are so deeply involved in helping to unite the community and in providing much needed material support to families of modest means. Blaze is truly magnificent. They walk the walk rather than talk the talk.
The pastor’s wife, Amy, was a special education teacher at a kindergarten. The couple is therefore intimately aware of the challenges facing educators. “Our hope is that teachers know that they are supported, that they are prayed for, that their efforts do not go unnoticed,” the pastor said.
He quoted a verse from the Book of Ruth: “The Lord will reward you for your kindness.
“It’s part of our vision,” he said. He wants teachers to feel rewarded.
The congregation also wants teachers to know that the church supports them and is there for them, Indovino said. Each kit will include a message informing educators, “Blaze Church is here.”
To get involved, visit the Blaze Church website at blazechurch.org/teachers. Items on a registry can be purchased and dropped off at the church at 50 Bell Avenue in Flanders during the week or at any of the Sunday services at Moose Lodge at 51 Madison Street, Riverhead.
The kits will be assembled at the church on August 29, with delivery scheduled for September 1, the day teachers return for their back-to-school conference.
Meanwhile, services at the Moose Lodge? In the seven years since Indovino’s arrival, the church’s congregation has grown to surpass the small space built in the 1960s for the Ukrainian Assembly of God.
The congregation grew, even during the COVID shutdown, thanks to the “drive-in” services offered in the courtyard next to the church.
Running out of space in the church, Indovino joked, “Now we live in a van.” Every Sunday morning at 6:45 a.m., volunteers arrive to pack service paraphernalia, including lights and instruments for musical accompaniment by the church orchestra, items for the children’s area, as well as the coffee maker. of rigor for communion after the service.