The Northview Blog

stories of community, faith, and values

Making a difference at Brookside School 54

Posted by on May 3, 2014


Brookside School Field Day 2011

A chorus of sing-songy voices greets me the moment I open the door, “Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Williams! You came back!” It is 1:30 on Thursday afternoon and Ms. Matteson’s second grade class at Brookside Elementary (School 54) is in the middle of their writing and math block. Math is the undisputed favorite subject of Ms. Matteson’s class and Thursday afternoons are quickly becoming my favorite time of the week.

The kids are always excited to see a visitor and their teacher gives them a few minutes to pepper me with questions.

“Did you go to work today? What do you do at your work?”

“Did you have ice cream last night?”

“Does your son play football?”

“Can I be your son?”

“Are you going to come every week?”

Consistency is rare indeed, both at school and at home. So they are mostly amazed and delighted that I keep showing up week after week.

This week there are 16 kids. Last week the count was only 11, and the week before, 13. None of these numbers represent the full class roster. In the ever-changing landscape of an urban school a teacher can hardly predict what their classroom will look like week to week. An entire class has been known to turn over from one semester to the next. The makeup of a school like School 54 shifts so much that teachers are often shuffled between grades in the same school year.

But none of this matters to Ms. Matteson. She runs a tight ship for whoever shows up—uniform shirts tucked in at all times, feet on the floor, no talking out of turn, paper and pencil at the ready, and if she catches you not paying attention to the lesson you’re going to shape up for sure.

It is clear she strives to know these children well and she is doing everything in her power to see them succeed, but she can’t do it alone. I visit School 54 once a week as part of Northview Church’s partnership with them.

Tutoring opportunities vary. Some tutors see two to three kids a week for 20 minutes at a time in the school library. Other tutors pull kids in the hallway to work on math or reading skills. I’m one of the lucky volunteers that gets to be in the classroom the entire time. I’ve helped the kids learn how to do internet research on very old and slow computers. I’ve learned a bit of new fangled math and have spent most of my time making new friends.

This isn’t my first stint at school volunteering. I have three kids at three different schools within Hamilton Southeastern School district. I love my school system and my kids have amazing teachers and administrators. It’s important to me to be involved in my children’s education, but being a room mom in the suburbs is sometimes more about the mom than the kids.

In my school system, I have to be placed in a lottery, and chosen out of a hat for the privilege of chaperoning a 3rd grade field trip. I have to sign up for a one-hour time slot a month to come in and make copies for my son’s 6th grade home room teacher. I’ve seen Moms go to great lengths (not to mention spend hundreds of dollars at Oriental Trading Company) to “out-Pinterest” one another for classroom parties and Staff Appreciation Week.

Inner-city schools hear big plans from church and community groups. Mostly empty promises, the majority of those volunteers stop showing up after a few months and the organization’s support trickles and dries up.

Northview placed a very small but mighty group of committed volunteers during the 2012-2013 school year. This commitment helped propel School 54 from an “F” to a “B” school. That’s a three-letter improvement in just one year! This jump means more children are passing standardized testing, mastering math skills and reading at grade level. Most importantly, it represents over 600 kids on the embattled near Eastside of Indianapolis receiving an educational leg-up.

It’s almost time for me to leave the kids for another week. The boys give me high fives and the girls give me hugs. Suddenly, the door slams and a defiant little boy slinks in. He is only 8 years old, but he has been in detention. His hair is an unruly disheveled mess on top of his head and he carries an elaborate paper airplane.

Not only has he spent his time making airplanes instead of doing his work, he can’t find the papers sent to detention with him. He will surely come to school without them tomorrow and face further consequences. He comes to school sporadically and never on time. One can assume from his appearance that he is responsible for getting himself up and out the door for the walk to school. His mom came to pick him up early but has never stepped foot in the front door of the school or returned any of the teacher’s calls or emails.

Ms. Matteson sighs as he shuffles out. She pauses to stoop low, places a hand on his shoulder and reminds him that she looks forward to seeing him tomorrow—asking him to bring a better attitude. As he leaves she looks at me with eyes that say, “What can I do?”

One of the key components of stemming the rising tide of hopelessness we see every night on the news and every morning in our newspapers is education. Is it fair that 20 minutes away from School 54 my children receive a public education that puts them on the fast track to college and future career success? These kids and their teachers deserve a fighting chance. And we can give it to them.

Once leery of our involvement, School 54 has now given Northview full access to the school and asked that we provide an army of 50 tutors for next year. We would like these tutors to start before the end of the school year in June so they can hit the ground running next fall.

Will you step up and give these kids a chance?

To volunteer, or learn more about Northview’s programs at Brookside School 54—including Box Tops for Education, Backpack Drive and Field Day—please contact:

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Follow the yellow bag…home

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014

Maybe you’ve seen the yellow bags in Northview Church’s lobby. Here’s your opportunity to follow the yellow bag’s journey from Northview to home.

Thanks to Dennis McClintock for the photos!

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Standing in the gaps

Posted by on Jan 6, 2014


According to the National Education Association (NEA) website in an article entitled Facts about Child Nutrition, “Missing meals and experiencing hunger impair children’s development and achievement. Studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Pediatrics, and the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry document the negative effects of hunger on children’s academic performance and behavior in school. Hungry children have lower math scores. They are also are more likely to repeat a grade, come to school late, or miss it entirely.”

Former Chair of Gleaners Food Bank and current City Mosaic staff member, Carrie Petty knows a thing or two about the fight against hunger. Petty put it bluntly, “One in six Hoosiers are hungry and there is currently no food system for support over holiday breaks. The church must stand in the gap.” Petty also stated, “There is no end in sight to the current hunger crisis and we are heading towards a hunger cliff when government cutbacks come into play. Our food lines are getting longer each month. There are over 5,000 malnourished (kids) in IPS alone.”

This Christmas season, Northview decided to use its Christmas concert to “stand in a gap.” The proceeds from concert ticketing will be used to provide lunches for kids at inner-city schools who aren’t able to get a nutritious lunch during their Christmas break. Northview’s Outreach Pastor Wayland Thompson explained why. “We knew we wanted to make a big impact in the city. We figured that if we charged a small ticket price for the Christmas concert, that due to the popularity of the event, we could make a huge difference in the lives of some of our neighbors on Indy’s east side. We are partnering with Brookside Church and City Mosaic to be more involved in School 54–and through deepening this existing relationship over the last year, we have been able to get to know many of the families, teachers, and administrators. The more you get to know someone, the more you are invited into their lives and see opportunities to be a blessing,” said Thompson.

The Christmas concert raised $20,000. The money will impact over 1,200 kids that attend Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) 54 and 15. Student populations at both schools are over 95% reduced/free lunch which means the majority of students depend on the breakfast and lunch they receive through school as their main source of nutrition for the day. Food boxes will contain items such as tuna, cereal bars, fruit cups, oatmeal, soup and pasta.

Northview’s idea has caught the attention of other organizations in the area. Thompson said, “Because of our partnership with City Mosaic, A Partnership of Churches—the idea that was born at Northview—was shared with the other City Mosaic church partners. One church in particular, Connection Pointe Church in Brownsburg, organized a food drive to coincide with the purchase of the food. The public schools in Brownsburg found out and did a drive for their students at every school in their system.”

Students standing in the gaps for other students…. so how did that work out? Thompson exclaimed, “Not sure how to describe it other than it (food) was stacked seven feet high and covered the entire stage in the Brookside gymnasium.”  Thompson also pointed out that other churches were involved at different levels.

Thompson commented on the synergy of the groups involved. “The coolest part of this story is that because churches and communities came together and caught the vision to feed students over the winter break, not all of the money raised from the Christmas concert was needed to purchase food.  Because there was so much food donated, we will be able to use some of the money raised to impact the neediest of students over spring break in a few months. It’s so encouraging to see our partnership with City Mosaic bring churches of all different backgrounds together to make an impact for those in need.”

There’s no shortage of gaps to stand in so please consider getting involved. Thompson gratefully concluded, “I am so thankful to be a part of a church that gives so freely. There are so many opportunities to serve at School 54 and Brookside right now. I would invite everyone to come and meet some incredible neighbors in the city.”

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Christmas Compassion at Northview

Posted by on Jan 4, 2014


Christmas shopping, lights, presents and visits to Santa Claus are all underway the last few weeks before Christmas. In all the hustle, bustle and gift-giving madness that consumes us every December, do we ever really stop to think of those who are less fortunate? Or those who are not part of our own family and circle of friends?

Northview’s Christmas Compassion does just that and has caused a shift in the church’s mindset.

Christmas Compassion 2013 (by Denise McCool)

Northview’s Christmas Compassion tree (photo by Denise McCool)

This year marked the third annual Christmas Compassion which was born of other Christmas charity drives in prior years–Share the Blessing and Christmas Outside the Box. Through Christmas Compassion, Northview asks church attendees to take a tag from a Christmas tree and buy something listed on the tag. The tags are classified by age group and gender. They list a need, want and family item. Through this drive, Northview was “able to see the thankfulness from each family,” said Shanna Thompson, Northview’s Good Neighbor Coordinator.

These are some of the items families brought back to church to donate: socks, underwear, hats, gloves, clothes, toys, books, board games, diapers, wipes…and a whole host of other items!

The gifts are all going to local families in Hamilton and Marion Counties. Specifically, the gifts go to Life Centers which serve women in crisis pregnancy, Head Start of Hamilton County which provides preschool to underprivileged families, Indianapolis Public School 54, Good Samaritan Network, Brookside Community Church and a few Latino churches in downtown Indianapolis.

“Each of the families receiving the gifts are extremely thankful for each item,” said Thompson.

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Coming to Brookside leads to home ownership

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013


Jamie Wildt came to Brookside Community Church (BCC) in July 2008 seeking a yellow bag of groceries at the BCC food pantry and found the family of God. In no time, Wildt began to learn and grow spiritually and to serve in a variety of ways. Within a couple of years, Wildt was leading BCC’s nursery. Most recently, she took on the additional role of serving as point person to help Life Groups who come from partnering churches to serve on Sundays.

Brookside Community Church in Indianapolis

Brookside Community Church in Indianapolis (photo by Dennis McClintock)

For about seven years, Wildt worked in the Brookside neighborhood foundry grinding steel on automotive engines. She rented an apartment a short walk from BCC and was content being single with two dogs. Last year her teenage daughter Erika moved to Indy to live with her. This event changed Wildt’s perspective. She wanted to offer Erika more than what she’d been settling for. She’d heard BCC Pastor Frank Stone’s vision of moving Brookside Community Church congregants from being renters in the neighborhood to becoming homeowners and she wanted to be a homeowner. Her desire seemed far out-of-reach because her debt was out of control.

Ready for change, Wildt followed God’s roadmap for debt-free living through the Crown Ministries curriculum offered at BCC. She quickly found God’s promises to be true as she moved from the bondage of debt to financial freedom, flexibility and opportunities. Within a few months, Wildt was tithing regularly and putting into action her plan to pay off her outstanding bills. As she demonstrated faithfulness in stewardship, God blessed her with new employment at Safeway Moving Systems through Ed Hart, a member of the Brookside Community Church Board.

The desire for home ownership still seemed to be out of Wildt’s grasp. She was burdened with years of poor credit. It was, however, in God’s hands. He had begun to move upon the hearts of homeowners J.D. and Liz Collar. The couple owned a home not too far from the Brookside community and wanted to sell it. Upon hearing Wildt’s story, they offered to sell her the home and be her mortgage lender. God met Wildt’s need through their generosity to overcome the stumbling block of poor credit that would have kept Wildt from borrowing from a bank to owning her first home.

“The best part about being a homeowner is feeling like my hard work has paid off,” Wildt said.

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