Hope area students and their families are invited out for an evening of prayer at the third annual Prayer Circle at the shelter house on the Hope Town Square at 7 p.m. Sunday.

The nondenominational event is made possible by collaboration between the Student’s Fund of Hope and the Hope Ministerial Association.

Initially, the event was intended as an opportunity for the Student’s Fund of Hope to offer their contact information so that families could be made aware of the organization’s resources that are available to support families in need, says Whitney Budd, president of the Student’s Fund of Hope.

The event, which is always well attended, is promoted as an opportunity to pray for the upcoming school year, Budd says. However, this year feels a bit different she adds.

“I almost feel like this school year is more unprecedented than last year,” she says. “We knew we were going into it socially distanced and masked. This year, now we have this new Delta variant, so I don’t know if we know what it is going to look like so our prayer for that is that we make the best decisions as a community, school and parents to figure out how to navigate this.”

Budd describes the event as a casual occasion that offers families a chance to not only gather and pray, but one where kids can also pick up what they need to return to the classroom.

This year’s event was also given an extra boost by one student’s selfless efforts to help others.

“This year is really cool because Conner Simmons raised over $1,000 for school supplies, so we were able to buy 250 pairs of headphones for the elementary school,” Budd says. “So we will be able to supply headphones in addition to school supplies, including binders, folders and backpacks.”

Kids will be able to grab what they need as the Student Fund of Hope was able to purchase all the items listed on the school’s supply list, Budd says.

“Every kiddo gets a pencil and a popsicle” she says. “Every pencil has been prayed over with the child who receives it in mind.”

A poem accompanies the pencil that relays a message to the child to remind them that if they are feeling jittery or anxious to know the pencil was prayed over and that they have support and are not alone.

Representatives from five Hope-area churches, as part of the Ministerial Association, will be in attendance and participating, Budd says.

At 7 p.m. those present will gather for prayers in a large circle near the shelter house, Budd says.

“We pray over specific things,” she says. “So one pastor will pray over the students, one pastor will pray for the guidance for our admin and those making decisions for our kids, one pastor will pray over our staff and our teachers, and then we also have a student this year Gabby Johns, a senior, who will be praying for the students.”

Pastor Andy Kilps, of the Moravian Church, is certainly looking forward to the event.

“We are very excited to have this back to school prayer circle,” Kilps says. “We want to show the students that the community is behind them, with them and just to pray and have God’s blessing on everyone.”

Joining Kilps this year will be pastors from four other Hope-area churches. Those in attendance will be Ed Cottrell with the Hope United Methodist Church, Dennis Chasteen with the First Baptist Church of Hope, John Marquis of Hope First Wesleyan, and Scott Bourland of the Grace Baptist Church.

Kilps says the wonderful partnership between the Ministerial Association and the Student’s Fund of Hope is what makes events such as this possible.

“We are looking forward to doing again what we have done before,” Kilps says. “By showing that support and love and prayer of God’s blessing.”