By Gisele McKnight
It was in mid-November while preparing the budget for 2018, that Allan Agnew, treasurer of the Parish of St. Mary, York, noticed there was still $1,000 in the mission budget.
“Coincidentally, the Gifts of Hope catalogue from Plan International Canada had just arrived in the mail,” he said, adding he asked that a mission spending project be put on the vestry agenda.
At the meeting, the decision was made to give $1,000 to the Sunday school — not to keep, but to spend. They attached one condition — half of it had to go to a local initiative.
“Mission money shouldn’t sit,” said Janice Stockall, a Sunday school teacher at St. Mary, York. “It should be used.”
Janice told the parents what was happening, they arranged for snacks and Janice printed $500 in fake money to make the lesson real. She had two charities in mind — PWRDF (Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund) and Plan International Canada.
So she and others gathered the dozen or so Sunday school kids together to make some pretty important decisions — who and what to bless with all this money.
The first $500 was earmarked for the Fredericton Homeless Shelters, and then the work began to spend the remainder.
“It’s good to put it in the hands of the kids,” said Janice. “It’s a very good lesson, and they’re never too young to learn.
“We sat down with the catalogues and talked about the benefits,” said Janice, adding it was fascinating to see the kids making decisions using logic and math to get the best deals. They even learned how to stretch their dollars farther by choosing some purchases that are matched by the organization.
One boy realized that buying chickens and a rooster would keep the gift going in the form of eggs and chicks. And one girl, whose mother is a nurse, wanted a health-related gift.
“So they carefully went through, counting out the money and cutting out pictures from the catalogue,” said Janice, adding they all voted on the resulting shopping list.
The final tally was one goat, seeds, three chickens and a rooster, one whole set of barnyard animals, HIV testing kits, food supplements, vaccinations and training for a female health-care worker.
After the spending decisions were made, the children created a poster of their shopping list so the congregation could see the outcome. Then everything was handed off to Allan for the actual purchases and donation.
The shopping spree created a buzz among the congregation, with many wanting to top up the fund.
“I was not present during the Sunday school session when the items were selected… However, I did see the posters when they were presented to the congregation … and I was very impressed with their choices,” said Allan.
“What we wanted to teach the kids — especially during Advent — was not ‘what am I getting for Christmas’ but ‘what can I give?’” said Janice. “It’s a way to help people they don’t even know.”