School Partnership Expands Vision at St. Paul’s, Harris Hill

Six years ago, the people of St. Paul’s, Harris Hill, prepared for Christmas by filling tote bags with books for the children of Buffalo Public School 6. The next year, they added hats and gloves to the bags, and the year after that, socks. This year, the bags were so plentiful that they lined the aisles of the church and wrapped around the Christmas tree, under the credence table, around the Advent wreath, and spilled into the baptismal font.

St. Paul’s began its partnership with School 6, whose students are nearly all economically disadvantaged, eight years ago. In addition to Christmas tote bags, which include mittens and books donated by the families of suburban Harris Hill Elementary, the congregation provides School 6 students school supplies in the fall, coats at the beginning of winter, pencils for the state exams and bikes for the school’s student leadership program.

Seeing the difference between Harris Hill Elementary, where the congregation also has a partnership, and School 6, “has opened the door for conversations about systemic poverty, refugee issues and systemic racism in a way that moves beyond the theoretical,” said the Rev. Vicki Zust, rector of St. Paul’s.

In addition to seasonal collections, St. Paul’s members volunteer in classrooms and help distribute weekend food bags for children whose families struggle with food insecurity. Beginning this month, the congregation will stock a hygiene closet for the school.

The congregation, known as “the church that children built,” was founded as an ecumenical Sunday School during World War II, and the congregation’s interest in school partnerships stems from its founding, Zust says.

“Our partnership with School 6 has expanded our vision of what it means to be a part of our community.”