Ministry for the ages

Photos and story by John Hall

Eleven-year-old Tucker Burgin scrambles to put a series of small items in a blue bag with the Buckner International logo emblazoned upon it. He and his friends smile and giggle as they run through an assembly line, dropping their respective bags in a large cardboard box and beginning the process all over again.

In a matter of minutes, more than 100 bags fill the box. Children high-five each other and jump up and down. Their joy reverberates across the room, the sound of pure hearts that want to help others. For volunteer appreciation month, the children are preparing the bags for those who serve through Buckner ministries.

Here in this group of Buckner volunteers, everyone – no matter their age – has a role to play in helping people, and that’s exactly why Tucker and his family participate. His father, Jay, discovered opportunities for Tucker to serve when Jay was looking for Buckner volunteer possibilities for himself.

“We have always talked to Tucker about the importance of doing things that serve others, whether that’s at church or at school,” says Tucker’s mom, Tracy. “Because this was something specific he could do, he was on board.”

This group of elementary-age children largely focuses on practical ways they can help young people in the foster care system. A gathering of larger blue bags full of school supplies rests on the opposite corner of the room, representing a portion of the group’s largest effort.

“We have foster kids here,” Tucker says. “When they move, they have to leave everything behind. We help by collecting school supplies for them.”

Tucker may lead his parent’s involvement in helping children, but it’s a family effort. Jay and Tracy help him buy supplies when friends and family members give him money. They encourage their son’s passion.

“We believe God tells you to serve, to go and serve,” Tracy says. “Whether it’s us doing something through church or somewhere else, it’s important for us to have Tucker experience that as well.”

In addition to bringing his friends and family together, Tucker also is rallying Earl Luna Elementary School in Garland. He shared the need for school supplies with his principal, and the school began a drive.

Last year, Luna students gave 10-15 backpacks full of school supplies for foster children. This year, the school is becoming more involved, hosting a popsicle party for the class that donates the most supplies.

“It feels important to me to help other people,” Tucker says, explaining his drive to gather school supplies.

Buckner Foundation Manager of Volunteer Engagement Lindsay Miller beams when she thinks about the Burgins. They exemplify the kind of impact a family can have for vulnerable children.

“It’s such a blessing to see parents teaching their children to give back to their community at such a young age,” she said. “As we engage volunteers, it is so important we remember to see past a volunteer’s age, and instead see their ability and their heart. There is great potential in this generation of children who continue to be more and more socially aware. I’m thankful for parents that seek opportunities for their children to participate in serving others.”

Tracy has noticed Tucker’s “already big heart for people” has grown. He’s become involved in service opportunities through the Boy Scouts. This summer, the family is looking to participate in a mission trip together.

“Since being affiliated with Buckner and seeing the good he’s doing, he’s more in tune and more aware and looking for opportunities to serve,” Tracy says. “It has really opened the door for him to other opportunities.”

These are the early and crucial steps in Tucker’s life. The Burgins are seeking to instill a servant’s spirit in Tucker that lasts a lifetime.

“Our hope is that Tucker takes what he’s learning now about being selfless and continues to carry that forward for his own life and his family,” Tracy says. “These little experiences along the way, if he can broaden his horizons for God, that’s the goal.”

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