by Sue Ann Rybak

Friends of J.S. Jenks, an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to enhance the educational and enrichment opportunities at J.S. Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill, has received a grant of $30,000 from the Primary Partnership Program at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 8000 St. Martin’s Lane.

The grant, which was announced by the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, rector, will provide Friends of J.S. Jenks with $10,000 each year for the next three years.

Kerbel said the Primary Partnership Program was designed “to form a meaningful relationship between the church community and the organizations we support.” He said the church hopes to help Friends of J.S. Jenks achieve its goals through both financial and volunteer support. He added that “excellent public schools are crucial to the health of Philadelphia.”

Kerbel said every congregation and business should be “passionately concerned about public schools” and their impact on the education of children, businesses and economic development. He said the church is currently working on the policy level of this issue through organizations such as Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (P.O.W.E.R.)

“We [the church] understand that public schools educate the vast majority of students in Philadelphia,” Kerbel said. “We were impressed by how the parents and staff [at J.S. Jenks] were really working together in a passionate love for their school in an effective way. The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields really wanted to encourage this kind of engagement in our public schools – especially our local one – that’s right down the street.”

Haviva Goldman, president of Friends of J.S. Jenks, said the organization was excited about receiving the Primary Partner Grant from the church and is looking forward to strengthening its relationship with the church.

“Jarrett Kerbel has been a strong supporter of our efforts at the Friends of J.S. Jenks from our inception,” Goldman said.

Last year, Goldman and Kerbel met to discuss ways that the congregation could become involved in Friends of J.S. Jenks and the school.

“The church has hosted three of our fundraising events thus far, and the Primary Partner Grant is the next step in this collaboration,” Goldman said. “It’s a win-win situation for the church and for Jenks. Members of the church who are interested in volunteering in the community in a meaningful way will be able to make a tremendous difference at Jenks at a time when slashed budgets mean that community support is more needed than ever.”

Goldman said funds from the grant will be used to develop and design two new programs. In collaboration with the church and the school, Friends of J.S. Jenks will develop an after-school culinary arts program focused on creating healthy, child-friendly menus, purchasing food, developing flavor profiles, measuring and math skills, and age appropriate knife and cooking skills.

“The program would tie into our school-garden initiative and the church’s Wednesday supper program, bringing in both the ‘green’ and ‘community’ themes to our students,” Goldman said. “We hope that we can extend this collaboration to include other community organizations such as Weavers Way.”

Goldman said the second initiative will be to develop a 12-week advanced arts and science after-school program. Jennifer Nagda, who helped write the grant, said the after-school program will allow students to explore subjects outside the traditional curriculum.

“This generous grant will foster a new and strong partnership between the John Story Jenks and St. Martin’s communities, allowing community members to bring their unique talents and skills – artistic, scientific, culinary – into their neighborhood school to the future artists, scientists and chefs of Philadelphia, who, in turn, will share their own skills and talents with Chestnut Hill through events like juried art shows and a community meal,” Nagda said.

Goldman said Friends of J.S. Jenks will be meeting with the church over the summer “so that we can hit the ground running with new programming initiatives in the next school year.” She added that her organization will hold a planning meeting next month to discuss programming and budgeting for the next academic year.

“We’ve raised almost $9,000 from our annual event and ongoing annual fund campaign, but we are still actively seeking contributions in order to reach our goals,” Goldman said. “The money we raise now will determine how much we can put towards arts, music and entertainment programming next year. And with the budget as it stands, the school will need as much as we can possibly give.”

Mary Lynskey, principal of Jenks, said the school is thankful for the church’s generosity and continued support.

“It is amazing that in a time when the future is so dark for the School District of Philadelphia that Jenks is fortunate to have such a benevolent partner in St. Martin’s,” Lynskey said. “We are encouraged by the generosity that our community partners, particularly St. Martin’s has shown us. With the deepest heartfelt gratitude we offer our most sincere thanks to all who worked so hard to make this partnership happen.”

She added that thanks to the community’s generosity the school can “look forward to next year with hope.”

To make a donation to Friends of J.S. Jenks annual fund drive go to www.friendsofjsjenks.org.