As many of you know, we have over the past several weeks been working on developing and in fact building an enduring partnership with Lake Elkhorn Middle School- a Title I school which sits right in the middle of Columbia, Howard County, and about a mile from Christ Episcopal Church. A school which is situated right in the middle of abundance and wealth but where students struggle mightily with poverty, and homelessness, and which is lacking mentors who can help transform the lives of these young minds.
One of the clichés' I heard from friends and acquaintances who lived in Maryland as I prepared to move to Columbia was that 'Howard County is one of the richest counties in the United States.' 'Howard County has so much to offer.' Howard County this, Howard County that. Those are all good things-nothing bad about Howard County. I have loved Howard County and I am all too blessed and lucky to be here. The tragedy, however, is because of our view of the county, we lose sight of the other side of Howard County which many do not know but does exist.
Hidden In Plain Sight within the 'Howard County this' and 'Howard County that' is endemic poverty-stories of poverty which will make you cry. According to the Howard County Community Action Council, the number of students who receive Free and Reduced-price Meals (FARMs) grew from five thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine (5879) in 2008 to twelve thousand one hundred and seventy-seven in 2017. In Lake Elkhorn Middle School nearly half of the students receive the FARM benefit. That is an astonishing statistic, one that is incomprehensible and should not be tolerable, especially in Howard County.
I learned that during the hot summer months, the Howard County Public Schools target the most disadvantaged parts of the county for its summer feeding program. This is to provide assistance to children so they wouldn't have to miss their meals. The Owen Brown/ Cradlerock neighborhood is part of this program. And as most of you know, our Church sits right in this neighborhood. And so Hidden In Plain Sight are an unimaginable number of children who live around our Church but who go to bed hungry.
As parents, we know how it feels like when our children begin to complain of hunger. We want to do all that we can to provide them with food to eat. But what if you have nothing to provide? And more than that, what if you find yourself in a situation where you have to provide food and school supplies but have nothing to provide either or worse still you have to choose between dinner and school supplies? As unbelievable as this scenario may sound, Hidden In Plain Sight are many families we do not know, children and youth we do not know, but who share the same dignity with us, desire to live a life of relative comfort but cannot because of their circumstances.
As a community of faith, we are blessed with incredible amount of resources. And not only that. we celebrate our blessings and desire to share those blessings with others-especially the students and families of Lake Elkhorn Middle School. As a community of faith we desire to make known all that is Hidden In Plain Sight. Our first major push will be to take one burden off the plate of struggling families.
Many of you have generously donated school supplies and funds toward the purchase of additional supplies to stuff the 100 backpacks that we are donating to Lake Elkhorn Middle School. For that, I am grateful for your kindness and generosity. Please join us on August 19, 2018, the Principal of Lake Elkhorn Middle School will join us at both the 8:00 and the 10:30 service. Between the two services, we will all gather in the Great Hall, New Brick and fill each of the backpacks with the necessary supplies.
All that is hidden shall be revealed, says Luke. And in my mind, your generosity and faithfulness to the call of a disciple is revealing that which is Hidden In Plain Sight.
Thanks a lot.