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Texas church’s ‘Dollar Club’ shows the power of small things united

Rush Creek’s Brian McFadden looks on as Mariela Ellis surprises member Jessie Roberson with an OrCam MyEye device, courtesy of the Dollar Club. Photo submitted

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) – A dollar doesn’t buy what it used to. Even the venerable Dollar Tree stores, which held the price line for decades, now offer most items for $1.25.

But a dollar can still make a difference, as Rush Creek Church is discovering.

Since October, Rush Creek has asked each member to donate $1 per month to the Dollar Club, creating a fund used to provide financial gifts to deserving – and unsuspecting – church and community members.

One of the beneficiaries is “Ms. Jessie” Roberson, a beloved senior adult member of Rush Creek. In a video created by the church, Roberson tells part of her story.

Growing up, “church was all we had,” Roberson said in the video.

“We didn’t get to go to swimming pools. The only time we got to go to a swimming pool was Juneteenth.

“Because of that, I learned to forgive. God wants us to have a spirit of forgiveness.”

Roberson also mentioned the difficulty of life as a widow, now legally blind from glaucoma, whose husband had taken her everywhere. She described her two sources of joy: God and her daily two-hour times of morning prayer.

In the video, Brian McFadden, Rush Creek compassion pastor, prompted Roberson to discuss the OrCam MyEye, a visual-enhancement device that, through artificial intelligence, helps the visually impaired read, identify people and even scan grocery items.

“Man, I just can’t afford that thing,” Roberson said.

That soon changed as church staffer Mariela Ellis entered with a boxed OrCam MyEye device, courtesy of the church’s Dollar Club initiative. Roberson covered her eyes and cried, shaking her head in disbelief. She had been giving to the Dollar Club herself and had no idea she would be on the receiving end.

“We know God is just starting. … He’s not done with you yet, and we wanted you to have as much freedom, autonomy, independence, as possible,” Ellis said while making the presentation to the emotional Roberson, who hugged both Ellis and McFadden.

“You’re making me do an ugly cry,” she told McFadden. “I just can’t believe this …. I am overwhelmed. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. … I am never at a loss for words. I am at a loss for words.”

The Rush Creek Dollar Club originated with Pastor Marty Collier, McFadden said. Collier had heard of a similar program at a church in Nashville and tasked McFadden and staff with exploring the possibilities.

“In July, we let the staff know this was coming,” McFadden said. They assembled a team of six or seven staff members, including Ellis, who serves as Rush Creek’s finance director, and representatives from human resources, communications and the church’s local compassion ministry.

“We wanted the viewpoints of all different people from staff,” McFadden said, explaining that the group set parameters regarding who could apply, how to qualify, and how recipients would be selected.

In advance of October’s official churchwide launch, Rush Creek staff members started contributing in July to an initial “seed” fund, McFadden said. Staff-generated funds provided the first gifts to the first surprised recipients, Robert and Miguel, both long-time employees of the local Colter’s barbecue, who had helped cater Rush Creek events for years. Neither man is a member of the church.

A five-minute video of Robert and Miguel’s response was shown to the congregation in October 2021. Collier also preached a sermon from 1 Corinthians 8:1-5 that day.

“In 1 Corinthians 8:4, the people are begging earnestly for the privilege of giving,” McFadden said. The sermon kickstarted the campaign, and in October and November, three more Dollar Club gifts were presented, with another planned for this February.

Church members started contributing to the fund after that initial video.

Recipients are invited to come to the church offices to film their stories, a practice common at Rush Creek.

“We like to capture stories of how God is using our people,” McFadden said.

In addition to Ms. Jessie, Robert and Miguel, other Dollar Club beneficiaries have included Brooke, a volunteer at the church’s Handley Hope Center to whom the church gifted a hedge trimmer and Home Depot gift card; and Al and Martha, volunteer leaders in Rush Creek’s Spanish-language ministry, who had recently lost one of their four children.

Michelle Fornal, a single mother of two whose daughter, Savvy, lost her sight because of brain tumors, was also helped.

“We blessed them with a check to help with expenses and gave the little girl a computer for the visually impaired,” McFadden said, adding that the church also bought the girl’s brother a new bike.

“The ask is just a dollar per person per month,” McFadden said. “United, we can do something to make an impact.” Many, he added, give more than a dollar, but with an in-person attendance of 4,000-5,000, even a dollar per person adds up quickly.

Rush Creek does not foresee the Dollar Club ending.

“We plan to go on for years and years to come,” McFadden said.

To view the Rush Creek Dollar Club stories, visit rushcreek.org/dollar-club.