December 2, 2020 -- The first day of December brought with it 30-degree temperatures and some fierce wind gusts. The day also brought a small army of volunteers from Rock City Church and the Ohio State Highway Patrol to South Mifflin STEM Academy to bring a bit of warmth and support to its students.
"This is the heart of our Church, Rock City," said Nate Eckhart, Rock City Church. "This is what we are called to do. Our purpose is to serve others. It means a lot to me, and I look forward to this every year."
More than a dozen volunteers braved the chilling temperatures to provide students with a new pair of shoes, socks, and other materials in brightly wrapped gift packages. For many of the students and families, it was an exciting moment. As each car pulled up, the students inside beamed with joy, not only to see many of the faces they had not seen since mid-March but to rip open the boxes and reveal the new shoes that were inside.
"I really like them," said 4th-grader Jada Breckinridge. "I'm happy now."
"It makes me feel good," said Myliyah McGee. "I'm going to open them when I get home."
This is the third year; Rock City Church has provided shoes for the South Mifflin STEM Academy students. The organization works with more than a dozen schools across the District and has provided more than 4,300 pairs of shoes to Columbus City Schools students.
"They are true to their word," said Principal Pamela Eberhardt-Horton.
"They ask for nothing but to spread joy and cheer, especially during this time. "Knowing someone cares for you and is giving you a Christmas gift brings them joy and their parents' joy. It helps to build community. The most difficult part for me was not hugging them, not seeing them. I've seen them through Zoom, but not hugging them to further let them know that we love them, we support them, and we miss them."
"It's joyful," said Cynthia McGee. "It really means a lot to us."
"It's a blessing. We thank you very much," said Grandmother Joellen.