NORTH TAMPA – As part of its mission statement, Van Dyke Church in Lutz emphasizes the importance of “extravagant generosity.”
Compassion for at-risk kids is also among its priorities.
With those thoughts in mind, Van Dyke member Rick Powell and his wife felt called to help children in need.
In communicating with church staff, Powell, the owner/operator of Chick-fil-A at Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater, learned about its adopt-a-school program at Mort Elementary School in North Tampa.
Every day of the school year Van Dyke Church members volunteer their time tutoring students at the Title 1 School where 98 percent of its 915 youngsters receive free or reduced-cost lunches. In total, the school draws from a pool of 150 church members who rotate their days and times to assist teachers.
In search for a way in which he could help out, Powell came up with a plan.
In conjunction with his February daylong in-store promotion to celebrate Chick-fil-A’s 50th anniversary he decided that with every original sandwich sold he would donate a gift card for a full meal good at any of the chain’s restaurants in the Tampa Bay area.
Mort Principal Woodland Johnson was recently a recipient of 300 of those gift cards, which he plans to use as incentives for students and perhaps even as a gesture of appreciation to his staff.
“We are thrilled,” said Johnson, who noted the majority of his students come from impoverished families living nearby.
“These students have a lot of needs,” he said. “Most walk to school and there is a large transient and homeless population in this community.”
Incentives, Johnson said, could include good attendance and participation in Battle of the Books, a competition that encourages children to read.
“The support that we get from businesses like Chick-fil-A really helps support what we are doing, trying to increase achievement,” he said.
Powell, who came to the school with his sidekick cow mascot in tow, was equally delighted to be on the giving side of the donation, especially when he experienced the joy on the students’ faces when they saw the cow and learned of Powell’s good deed.
“It’s just a great opportunity to give back to an organization that does so much for the community,” he said. “What a great way for us to share some meals.”
Cheryl Jackson, director of Van Dyke’s At-Risk Kids’ Ministry, also expressed her appreciation to Powell for his donation to Mort.
“It’s a great thing that Mr. Powell has done,” she said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]