An extraordinary act of thoughtfulness started a semi-annual tradition of hope
As a retired schoolteacher, Carolyn Tokunaga resonated with Kid City's work. After learning about Kid City's college program, Carolyn conjured up a way for the congregation at Centenary United Methodist Church, filled with talented and caring people, to extend their love and care to Kid City's first generation college students. The first project was Valentine’s Day themed care-packages. Centenary members sprang into action on short notice, bought notebooks, scantrons, pens, paper, cup of noodles, and toiletries, creating 100 care packages and raising the money for postage. Many Centenary members were also the first in their families to attend college. They remember the fears and insecurities they felt, much the same as Kid City students, and included handwritten notes to encourage students on their path through college.
Centenary UMC provides 200 care packages every year to Kid City college students
Students who rarely get a letter in the mail were thrilled by Centenary’s thoughtfulness and several visited the congregation to thank church members. Personal connections between members and students continues to grow. Students have volunteered at Centenary's annual bazaar, and learned to cook in classes with Centenary members Wendel Oyama and Chef Blake.
The Centenary congregation is faithful about continuing their support. Twice a year, Carolyn announces the project during worship and distributes Kid City's "wish list." She keeps an eye out for deals, members help with shopping, and Carolyn updates the congregation weekly with a story about a Kid City student. Finally, a group of volunteers forms an assembly line to put together the packages, and one or two people deliver them. In 2018, Centenary has a commitment to double the number of care packages they prepare, and send to Kid City college students 200 care packages!
Centenary UMC members on the care package assembly line.
When asked why Kid City matters, Carolyn reflected that "in this time of divisiveness... with the attacks on immigrants who are such an important and integral part of our community, it reminds us of the evacuation of the Japanese-American community (during World War II). It's great to have a group to advocate and support those in our community." She added that she is happy to see students in the program give back. "It demonstrates what the program has meant to them." It's important that Kid City helps people to graduate from college, but also to make sure they "feel cared about and secure."
Carolyn is hopeful because she has met the students, and witnessed pride in the graduates. As we enter the 2017 holiday season, Carolyn would like to pass on to future generations "the legacy of hope." Certainly, her care packages are hopefulness made manifest.