A Spark Ignites a Flame

Loretta Andrews and Children First

I like the word “exponential,” but I rarely have an opportunity to use it.  However, there’s no better word to describe the impact of the non-profit, Children First, on the mind and heart of the All Souls’ congregation than to say that it’s been EXPONENTIAL.

It all started with a fundraiser for the Emma Resource Center at Givens Estate and a spark of interest from Loretta Andrews, a resident at Givens and an All Souls’ congregant.  Loretta had been a greeter at church and worked with Martha’s Helpers, but it was her involvement in the All Souls’ women’s group that provided the initial opportunity to assist Children First.

“Initially, I thought the Family Resource Center at Emma was all there was to Children First,” Loretta said. 

She soon found out it was only the tip of the iceberg as she engaged the women’s group in collecting sorely-needed items for the organization.

“The response from All Souls was so great and so immediate that we organized a committee specifically for Children First,” she said.  Initially, this committee had no funds, but over the years it has become a budget item for Outreach.  “All our Outreach money goes directly to Children First,” she added.

The All Souls’ Children First committee has two missions:  to provide money for underfunded programs and services, and to engage other churches in the cause.

Can you see the kernel of exponential growth beginning to sprout?

Soon, the All Souls’ committee became part of a Diocesan Human Hurt and Hope Grant.  Under the auspices of the grant, All Souls partnered with Trinity Episcopal in a Call to Justice Summit.  Additionally, several poverty simulations have been conducted, and most recently, a Faith Summit attracted over 90 representatives from various denominations.

“Today, I feel that every member of our parish is a member of the Children First committee,” Loretta said.  “It seems that everyone is involved, from donating sewing machines and the ‘bedtime in a bag’ initiative, to Fr. Thomas Murphy’s commitment as a Children First board member.”

The list of All Souls’ contributions to Children First just keeps growing.  Other goods and services provided include assistance with events, fundraising, the genesis of a Girl Scout Troop, tutoring, and the use of the All Souls’ van for summer camp and special activities.

“I just ask Children First what they need, and All Souls always meets that need,” Loretta said.  Recently, All Souls funded a new freezer for the organization.

Loretta’s volunteerism has always focused on issues involving children.  The mother of two daughters and three grandchildren (all of whom live in the Asheville area), Loretta has savored her life in the mountains since moving here from north Georgia about 8 years ago. She credits Givens Estate for their community involvement and for providing her first exposure to Children First.  From that first exposure, Loretta says, “They now call me their unpaid employee.” 

And as Fr. Murphy so aptly stated, "As a member of the Children's First board and a priest at All Souls I am so appreciative of Loretta's passion, dedication, and generous offering of time to the underserved children in Buncombe County. She truly embodies the idea that by our baptism we are all ordained to act as God's hands and feet in a world full of hardship and need. Her name has become a synonym for volunteer." 

by Susan Blexrud

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