Public-school district leaders in Allentown, Pennsylvania, made the decision to keep the fall 2020 school semester at 100 percent virtual instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic; not an easy feat for a school district that has 85 percent of its families living at or below the poverty line.
Trinity Wesleyan Church, located on Allentown’s west side and averaging 500 in attendance (pre-COVID days), felt called to step up and support youth in the inner city. Rev. Gina Colburn, lead pastor at Trinity who has been serving there for the past six years, could not shake the need to do something to help.
That prompting to help resulted in the formation of The Hub, a ministry that provides a “safe, controlled environment for students to participate in virtual learning,” Monday – Friday (7:30–5:00). The Hub operates with church staff and volunteers. Workspaces for middle and high school students are available, along with Internet and educational assistance. Since The Hub opened in early September, approximately 10-15 students are receiving learning assistance weekly. That number is growing each week.
“The schools in our area are not coordinated on their reopening plans, leaving many families shuffling their work schedules and flexing student schedules,” said Colburn. “For instance, their student(s) might attend class in person Monday and Tuesday one week, then Thursday and Friday the following week. Essential personnel have a particularly difficult situation of leaving middle and high school children at home (alone) while they go to their essential jobs.”
The church has had a partnership with area schools for a while, so creating The Hub to serve families and students seemed a natural and best way to serve and resource the community.
“We started working with Allentown School District (two elementary schools) four years ago,” said Colburn. “We provide uniforms for them at the beginning of the year, classroom help for kindergarten, Breakfast with Santa that includes a gift for each child — hats, gloves, coloring book, crayons, game and photo with Santa. We also provide gifts and lunch for teachers during teacher appreciation week.”
Colburn noted that the church has connected with more than 600 students within the past few years.
David Brady, Trinity student ministries and outreach pastor, serves as director of The Hub. He cannot imagine missing such an opportunity to minister to families in the community through the The Hub.
“It is my passion to reach students where they are,” said Brady. “We live in a messy world and sometimes these kids just need a safe place to go and a person to walk through it with them. The Hub is designed to help these students focus not only on their schoolwork but also to realize that there are people in their community who see their struggle and want to help.”
Trinity is also ministering to families through counseling services for adults and children, and Celebrate Recovery, a ministry for adults struggling with addiction. The need for these services has increased because of the effects of COVID-19.