Stewardship Stories – Special Needs Ministries

Stewardship Stories – Special Needs Ministries

Mini Miracles was the first program in our Special Needs Ministry. Kim Spurlock wanted to make sure there was a place for her son, Cole, to go during service and be cared for by trained professionals and volunteers. The program began with three families and one program.Today, we have multiple programs and many families.

“It brought new families into church because they felt comfortable because their children had a place to go where they were safe,” Kim said.

“We have education and specially trained volunteers who know what to do and who challenge our kids throughout the year,” said Alyss Ruster, FPC’s Special Needs Ministry Coordinator.

Mini Miracles also offers camps during the summer, which work with each child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan – developed to ensure a child with a disability receives specialized instruction and related services) goals to help them retain what they learned in school during the year.

In addition to Mini Miracles, our Special Needs Ministry also offers Buddy Break, which is a national respite program in partnership with Nathaniel’s Hope to provide caregivers a respite time and special needs individuals a time to gather for social interaction.

“We follow Nathaniel’s Hope guidelines, but we have the flexibility to make this program our own,” Alyss said. “It is faith-based, and all of our volunteers are trained.”

Currently, we have 12 VIPs (individuals with disabilities) and about 20 volunteers, not all of whom are FPC members. Our students are ages four to 16, and the program works on a one-to-one ratio.

Three years ago, we hosted our first Night to Shine, a prom for special needs individuals sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. Feb. 9 will be our third year hosting the event.

As more support is poured into this program, we can expand the ministry to reach more people in our community.

“I’d like to see us group into having a youth group and to having Bible study so that we can feed into that population,” Alyss said.

“I encourage church members to come see us and to observe what we are doing,” Kim said. “There are lots of volunteer opportunities, and all of them make a difference to these kids and these families.”

We also have a Bible study on Wednesday evening – Shine On – for teenagers and adults with disabilities (and for those without disabilities who would like to join). We also now offer Mini Miracles on Wednesday evenings.

If you would like to become involved in the Special Needs program, whether by your financial support or as a volunteer, contact Alyss Ruster at alyss@fpclakeland.org.

Each gift and each commitment you give makes a difference in someone’s life.