PALMETTO -- Smart Guys Tutoring grew out of a brainstorming session in 2009 among members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church who were looking for ways to reach out and be a resource for this community.
The free one-on-one tutoring service resumes next week at 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays in the church parish office at 1010 24th Ave. W.
The Rev. Steve Winsett, who has been a pastor for 47 years, arrived at St. Mary’s about six months ago, just in time to attend an end-of-the-year banquet for participants and their parents.
“That’s what really sold me on it: the amount of gratitude the parents showed for how the tutoring helped their child’s performance,” Winsett said.
Program coordinator Doug Dunkelberger says the reality is that many homes are headed by a single parent, or both parents work full-time jobs. Either situation may be less than ideal for stressed or exhausted parents helping their child with their homework.
“It may be difficult for the parent to have patient, productive homework sessions,” Dunkelberger said.
Enter Smart Guys Tutoring, inviting children in grades one through 12 to drop by for some individualized help with their studies.
Some of the participants come from the nearby Boys and Girls Club, others come from the neighborhood. Church volunteers are in talks with the Palmetto Youth Center to assist youth there, Dunkelberger said.
The church has acquired a van to help with the transport of children to tutoring sessions.
With the aid of a $2,500 grant through the Episcopal Church United program, St. Mary’s is also acquiring electronic note pads for students to use during the tutorial sessions.
A civil engineer by trade with five of his own children, Dunkelberger had done some teaching by virtue of his profession, but never as part of a community tutoring program.
“We have a lot of talented people in the church and we try to take these talents and move to address a community need,” he said.
The church is trying to reach out to the neighborhood in various way, including being more inviting to the growing Hispanic population, Winsett said.
With the severe economic problems facing the United States, pastors often find themselves being both spiritual director and social worker, he said.
And the church can provide comfort and direction to those who are hurting, Winsett said.
The church keeps its doors open and serves the community when many other doors are being closed because of funding cutbacks, Winsett said.
For those who haven’t experienced life in a church setting, it’s difficult to convey the sense of peace it may bring.
Faith offers an alternative to a feeling of despair and loneliness.
Comparing it to the taste of ice cream, someone who has never had any can’t imagine what they are missing, he said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.