February 17, 2023
What were you doing 20 years ago?
20 years ago, I was appointed to my second churches, a two-point charge just south of Marshall, Illinois. Ron and I had been married almost two years, and he was commuting 30 miles to a church in Charleston, Illinois.
In 2003, George W. Bush was president and the war in Iraq began. The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry, killing all seven on board. Finding Nemo, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and Elf were released in theaters, Steve Martin hosted the Oscars, and Fred Rogers died. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl and the Florida Marlins won the World Series, making it a good year for sports teams in Florida.
A little closer to home, St. Mark’s was led by the team of Lead Pastor Rev. Paul Caseman and Associate Pastor Rev. DeeDee Azhikakath. That was the year that Rev. Caseman said, “We can’t make a change everywhere, but we can make it somewhere.” Because of his previous work fundraising for schools, Rev. Caseman aware of the pockets of poverty around Tucson. He said, “We looked at other schools, but they were well-funded and supported. The worst two included Nash.” Jane Gordon and Rev. Caseman met with Principal Rusti Farley, who was somewhat hesitant to get involved with a church. They convinced her that the church simply wanted to help out, not evangelize or push families to go to church. After the first year, she was won over and the relationship has thrived since then.
Rev. Caseman said, “These are kids who need our help.” And help, we have. The first year, volunteers offered tutoring in the classroom to kids who needed an extra boost. We helped out with Christmas funds for families and a party for the staff. In the next couple of years, we began to offer food, first giving snack packs for the weekend and then food boxes. Over the years, we have given school supplies in different ways.
Today, we continue to help with tutors, with school supplies, with food, with gift cards for those the principal know need an extra boost, and more. We continue to make a difference in an area where the median household income is just over $27,000, where more than half qualify for free or reduced lunch, where 93% of the school is considered a minority. We continue to make a difference in a school where reading and math performance is below expectations. We make a difference. *
As Rev. Caseman said, “If I did something right, this partnership with Nash was it.” We have done something right for 20 years. A huge thank-you to Carol Cecilia and Cris Mayerle, who Rev. Caseman credits with keeping Nash Neighbors alive all these years. Thank you to ALL the volunteers who have tutored, helped pack food boxes, organized school supplies, and more. You caught the vision and have helped us to continue to make a change in our backyard. Good job, St. Mark’s.
We will celebrate our 20th anniversary of ministry with Nash this Sunday in worship. There will be cake and celebrations, with teachers from the school present. We will recognize our volunteers and say a great big thank you. Join us, won’t you?
Then, see how you might be called to serve our Nash Neighbors!
See you soon,
* Statistics taken from:
- 8:30 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Youth and children’s Sunday School and child care (except fifth Sundays)
- 10 a.m. Livestream premieres on YouTube and Website
To access our livestream service:
- From the main menu on our website click “Worship.” -OR-
- Go to YouTube and search for UMC St. Mark’s Oro Valley or use this link.