Curious characters: Scarecrows pop up in Pratum

November 2010 Posted in Other

By Brenna WiegandA scare crow near the Pratum School.

When autumn arrives in the peaceful hamlet of Pratum, a curious cast of characters shows up around town, to the surprise and amusement of residents and passersby.

Where they came from was a mystery for a few years until word got around that the large-as-life scarecrows were the product of the community’s after-school program at Emmanuel Bible Church.

Mindy Myers, whose husband Stan Myers pastors the church, learned from her children there were some kids at school with no one to go home to. They all attended Pratum, one of the small, outlying schools of Silver Falls School District.

“I had a heart to nurture these kids by helping them understand how valuable they are in God’s eyes,” she said. “I didn’t want them driving by our big church on the corner every day on the way to school, never realizing there were people there who would love them and accept them just as God does.”

A core group stepped up to help make it happen, from teenagers to grandparents. Volunteers provide juice and platters of healthy snacks or talk to the kids about their occupations, providing an activity to go along with it.

“This year we are blessed to have several interns from Canyonview Camp who provide energy, positive role models and fresh ideas,” Myers said.
Pratum students decorate their scarecrow king scarecrow.
After the first two years, they opened the program up to the whole school – with amazing results. So far this year, more than 50 kids have attended each Monday and Thursday afternoons. Out of 80 Pratum students, 63 kids are signed up with EBC becoming a regular bus stop.

“I’ve been going since third grade,” eighth-grader Olivia Schmidt said. “I really enjoy Mrs. Myers and the other leaders are a lot of fun; they’re nice to talk to if there’s anything going on at school or with friends; it helps to get our emotions out. We get to learn about God and I really like the chance to hang out with my friends.”

“By just asking how their day was, providing a yummy snack, helping with homework, asking questions, relationships were built,” Myers said.

Since its inception nine years ago the after school program has evolved to include craft projects, field trips, character training, mission projects and special speakers from around the world: India, Honduras, Cambodia, China, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Peru, Haiti, Nicaragua, United Arab Emeritus, to name a few.

“I love to think that the kids in this little three-room schoolhouse in rural Salem have had the world brought to them,”  Myers said. “Our speakers share their experiences with the kids and usually bring them gifts, so they have a collection of items from all over the world.”

Learning from their visitors of the needs out there, the students have done service projects such as raising money to buy soccer balls for orphanages in the Honduras and providing personal care items for people in need in Sudan. Every month, Myers introduces a new character trait – November’s is Uniqueness – and brainstorms about ways it can be applied to their lives.

Lizzy Roth is in seventh grade and has taken part in the after-school program since kindergarten.
“My mom (Dawn Roth) teaches at the school so we have to stay until four o’clock,” she said. “It gives me something fun to do; I like playing games with my friends. The little kids are kind of crazy though.”
The scarecrow project began seven years ago, and due to its difficulty level, this year Myers decided this one would be an undertaking of sixth through eighth-graders.

“(Scarecrows) must withstand the wind and rain – and vandalism,” Myers said. “Whole scarecrows have been plucked out of the ground and stolen, or have had hats and other props swiped.”

There is always a Pirate – Pratum’s school mascot – in front of the school – and a hobo by the railroad tracks.  The other four change each year. Myers shops  for the clothes at Goodwill, then the kids decide what they will use.

“This year we have a Mexican farmer, a king, Mary Poppins and Superman,” she said.

George Zaichenko was on the Superman team. “We spent a lot of time arguing over the staple gun,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun there and we learn a little about the Bible and that’s good for you.”

The group who made the king used a lot of hot glue.

“None of us knew how to use a staple gun,” Crystal Derby said. “Going there after school you can hang out with your friends and I really like the speakers. The scarecrows are really fun because none of them are alike – and when they’re completely finished and hold it up, it’s like, ‘Wow – I made that!’ ”

The program’s mission statement is “Partnering with parents and teachers to help each child develop their God-given potential.” Myers always looks forward to fall, when she can get the program under way.

“We get to tell them how much they matter and of their value in God’s eyes, no matter their backgrounds or experiences,” Myers said, “and they know what we’re about at this church – loving them.”

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