Jul 29, 2020
Impacting Little Lives with Love
Have you ever met a child who seems to struggle with everything including their schoolwork, friendships and their home life? Sadly, poverty, family dysfunction, substance abuse and physical abuse are some of the issues that affect children in our communities every day. They are stuck in a cycle they were born into, and without help, will likely continue to perpetuate.
What could one do to help?
That is the very question that Greg Houldcroft asked himself ten years ago. A former engineer with a passion for bringing God’s love to needy children, Greg began the Crosstown Impact ministry in Brockville, ON. Five public schools and two high schools opened their doors, and allowed Greg and a few volunteers to develop the IMPACT ZONE: a free after school club that provides a safe place for children one day a week, while parents are at work. The Impact Zone assists children with their homework in a fun, encouraging environment. The students also receive a nutritious snack and hear a positive Christian character-developing lesson, as well as doing crafts and experiencing field trip
After ten years of sharing the gospel with the children through special events and the afterschool programs, Greg humbly shared a story of how God is making something beautiful happen in his community.
“During the COVID-19 lockdown, the schools closed, leaving many students and families without support. I wanted to reach out to the 95 children and my volunteers I had been seeing on a weekly basis. I wanted them to know that God is with them even when times are tough. I decided to make a small gift for each child and deliver it to their home, in person – at a distance of course. But what could I give them?”
With no budget for gifts, Greg had to be creative.
Remember those little round copper things we used to exchange for candy? We all have a jar of them in our closet – just in case. Well, Greg took his rainy-day pennies and pounded each one four hundred times each to make a cool design on them. Then he hand-stamped “BE THE CHANGE” in the centre of each one.
“I made them into necklaces and wrote a note for each child. Driving to each home, a gift bag, a special note and personal blessing were delivered. Telling them they would do great things, encouraging them to be the change in their homes, schools and communities. We can only make a change when we begin with ourselves. This is what we focus on at the Impact Zone, the Golden Rule, “In everything you do, be careful to treat others in the same way you’d want them to treat you” Matthew 7:12
As Greg was preparing the gift bags for the children, he couldn’t help but think about the many struggles they face. While praying for them, Greg had an idea. He had heard about a photographer who had taken ‘front porch portraits’ of families in rough neighbourhoods, just to bless them with a photo of their family to hang on their wall. Could I do this for the Impact Zone families? he wondered. But Greg knew he could not take photos and develop them on his own. He asked God to provide. When Melissa DeJong, an intern who came to work alongside him for the summer months, who happened to be studying media in university and happened to be a professional photographer, Greg knew, this was an answer to his prayer!
Over the next few weeks, Greg, Melissa and Robert Andrews (a volunteer from Tyndale) drove around Brockville, Athens and Prescott, stopping at each student’s homes to give them their handmade “Be the Change” penny necklaces. The children were just as happy to see Greg as he was to see them! The families gathered in front of their homes and had their photo taken. Many of them had never had a family portrait taken before. This was a gift that would they would cherish for years to come.
Even though COVID had brought the Impact Zone to a halt, Greg’s heart for the children expanded to their families as well. The ministry that began ten years ago may look a little different while schools are closed, but it is still making an impact in the lives of those who need to feel God’s love. And in a beautiful way!
What will happen in the next ten years? “I think we have to leave space for miracles to happen,” Greg says.
Crosstown Impact serves the Brockville community in the public schools and with several events each year. It is a non-profit charity supported by donations only and depends on volunteers to work alongside the children. To learn more go to www.crosstownimpact.com or you can purchase your own BE THE CHANGE necklace here.