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Campaign raises $320K for students

Children and youth at school

The Michigan Conference’s Readers to Leaders campaign ends, raising over $320,000, but churches can continue supporting these vital ministries in several ways.

Content Editor

At the 2024 Michigan Annual Conference, Lisa Batten and Rev. Jon Reynolds, co-leaders of the Readers to Leaders campaign, gave a final report and thanked the Michigan Conference for their generous support. To date, 250 Michigan churches have given over $320,000 to make a difference in students’ lives at United Methodist-affiliated schools in Michigan and in Liberia.

Half the funds received benefit students participating in the Michigan Conference’s Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools program. This six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program is currently operating at sites at United Methodist churches in Flint and Detroit. Interest is growing, and there is a desire to expand to other areas of the state.

“Freedom Schools are in areas that have been historically underresourced,” reported Batten. “Through COVID-19 and disaffiliation, churches have responded generously, tapping into your creativity to raise funds for Readers to Leaders. Thank you, Michigan Conference! Because of you, this summer, over 250 children will participate in reading programs at Freedom Schools.”

Freedom Schools fight to ensure every child thrives by encouraging lifelong learning. This program’s unique highlights include culturally uplifting messages, community engagement, mission projects, emotional intelligence awareness, and exposure to the arts.

Woman speaking at a mic
Lisa Batten, Michigan Conference Connectional Ministries Team staff member, speaks at the 2024 Michigan Annual Conference about the mentoring that the Freedom Schools provide by hiring young adults to serve during the summer. “While we’ve been conferencing the last few days,” she said, “over 30 young adults have been attending a national Children’s Defense Fund training [in Knoxville, Tenn.] so that these young adults will lead and inspire children to love reading.” ~ MIphoto/Jonathan Trites

The Readers to Leaders campaign also provides scholarships for children and youth attending four United Methodist schools — Anderson Weamah, Gbloryee, Janice Lee McLain, and Sanniquellie — in small communities in Liberia’s most disadvantaged areas.

“One hundred students were able to go to school in the last academic year as a result of your extravagant generosity,” said Reynolds in his comments at Annual Conference. “And all of those students will be able to graduate from high school.”

An education unlocks significant employment opportunities. An educated student who joins the workforce with a good-paying job can support their entire family when they graduate. Also, families in Liberia sometimes have to choose which of their children goes to school. Siblings work in the market selling goods to raise money so their sister or brother can attend school. Money raised through the Readers to Leaders campaign gives students the opportunity to complete eight years of school, strengthening families and communities.

In addition to scholarships, financial support from the campaign is helping to fund several construction projects at these four schools, including digging wells, installing water filtration systems, fully functional restrooms, new academic buildings, and other necessary campus renovations.

Man speaking at a mic
Rev. Jon Reynolds, co-pastor of Brighton: First UMC and Whitmore Lake, thanks the Michigan Conference for their generosity during the Readers to Leaders campaign. “Thank you so much for the car washes you did, the pop can collections,” he said, “all of the different ways that churches raised funds in the state of Michigan to help make a difference, both right here in the state and internationally with our brothers and sisters in Liberia.” ~ MIphoto/Jonathan Trites

The Readers to Leaders appeal began as a conversation in 2019 to bring to the 2020 Michigan Annual Conference, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start. At the 2022 Michigan Annual Conference, members voted overwhelmingly to support the campaign by encouraging each United Methodist congregation to raise at least $600 and develop a missional commitment to a school in their community. The financial goal was eventually modified from $480,000 to $356,000 to reflect the impact of disaffiliation and local church closures.

Give Financially

Churches and individuals are still sending in their final financial gifts, so there is still time to add to the more than $320,000 already collected for the campaign. Send your gifts now in one of two ways:

    • Check made payable to “Michigan Conference,” with “Readers to Leaders Campaign Acct. #4415” in the memo, mailed to Michigan Conference Center, Attn: Accounts Receivable, 1011 Northcrest Rd., Lansing, MI 48906
    • Credit or debit card payment via Paypal (click secure link)

For ongoing financial support, churches can continue supporting these ministries through EngageMI (click to learn more), the Michigan Conference’s mission engagement program. Use these account numbers when sending future contributions:

    • Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools (CCMM #3049) is a Step 2 partner.
    • For Liberia, financial gifts can go toward two Step 4 partners: Scholarships for Elementary, Secondary, College, and Seminary Education (General Advance #15125B) or the Liberia Ministry Partnership between the Michigan Annual Conference and the Liberia Annual Conference (CCMM #3014).

Volunteer and Donate Supplies

Members of United Methodist churches can volunteer and donate supplies for summer Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools in these ways:

    • Read a short book aloud to students in Flint one day, June 24 to July 26 (click to sign up), or in Detroit, June 17 to July 26 (click to sign up).
    • Donate nut-free snacks (individually wrapped) and bottled water. In Flint, contact [email protected], and in Detroit, contact [email protected].
    • Set up and clean classrooms at the United Methodist churches that are hosting Freedom Schools this summer. Email the contacts listed above to volunteer.
The Michigan Conference