Liberty University has extended its support to the community of Newtown, Conn., contributing to a relief fund and sending children’s books to the library at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the wake of the massacre that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14.
Freshman Josh Anderson, who lives three minutes from Sandy Hook, returned home for Christmas break the night before the shooting. He contacted Liberty’s leadership shortly after the tragedy asking for prayer support for the community.
“It was hard … the whole community had gone into shock,” said Anderson, who was a Vacation Bible School leader for one of the victims. “It’s great to be at a college where I can Facebook someone on leadership and they are able to pray, even from a distance, it just helps.”
In addition to prayer support, Liberty’s leadership asked if there were other ways the university could help in the community, and Anderson told them about a fund set up at his church, Walnut Hill Community Church, in nearby Bethel, Conn., to provide seven years of counseling to those affected by the tragedy. Liberty is sending a donation to the fund.
“That gave me a sense of pride,” Anderson said. “To find out that Liberty would be giving financially was something I wasn’t expecting and I was very grateful that (Liberty), which is not even remotely close to Connecticut, would give time and money to pray and help sow into the community.”
Liberty’s library staff also purchased 50 books for Sandy Hook’s library, contributing to a combined effort of several local churches in the Newtown area, including Second Chance Baptist Church in Bethel, which is home to a number of Liberty alumni. Alumna Ashley Kelly, a native of Bethel and member of the church, helped organize the book drive. She is a teacher in a nearby district and knows teachers at Sandy Hook.
“Having grown up in the area, it is so hard to believe something like this could happen. It is such a safe area, a small town,” Kelly said. “It was amazing to see how the community came together to show support for Sandy Hook.”
As a teacher, Kelly thought a book drive would be a great way to show the love of Christ to Sandy Hook. Kelly said she remembered her time at Liberty and how “the people were always willing to step in and help” and decided to reach out to her alma mater.
On Thursday, Jan. 10, library staff gathered to compose a list of book titles. They also contacted Sandy Hook to see which titles the school did not have.
“We are just delighted that we could do this to show our support and concern for the people of Sandy Hook, for the children in particular,” said Marcy Pride, dean of Liberty’s Integrated Resource Learning Center, which includes the library.
She said they wanted to send a wide variety of titles that were age and content appropriate for the children, including both new and classic books. Some of the books deal with grief, sadness, and loss, but they were also sure to include many fun, entertaining books.
Cynthia Schmidt, curriculum librarian, and Rachel Schwedt, head of communication and customer service, managed the selection process. On Friday, Jan. 11, Schwedt picked up many of the books from Liberty’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore and the rest were ordered. On Tuesday the staff packaged and shipped the books.
“We are pleased and thankful to be able to do this, it is a blessing,” Pride said.