Image Credit: Heidi Baumgartner

Community Shows Support for Northwest Christian’s Music Program

Students at Northwest Christian School (NCS) in Puyallup heartily belted out the lyrics to “I’m in the Lord’s Army” and “How Great Is Our God” in the midst of their week of prayer on Wednesday, Oct. 29, with good reason.

Two days earlier thieves stole all the working musical instruments, several electronics and a number of power tools from the school campus in Puyallup, Wash. Students felt vulnerable and violated because several of the stolen instruments were their personal instruments.

“The first order of business during week of prayer was to tell students about the theft,” says Craig Mattson, NCS principal. “Our teachable moment came when we prayed for the school, the students, the police investigation and the thieves themselves.”

As school administrators reviewed footage from newly installed surveillance cameras with police, word about the $30,000 loss started circulating in the community. Major news outlets aired the story on Monday followed by an in-depth feature by Elisa Jaffe from KOMO 4 Problem Solvers team on Tuesday. Jaffe appealed to the public and “music geeks” to support the school.

“The three days of media attention seemed to have struck an emotional chord with scores of people in the community,” says Mattson. “Several other schools and businesses from all over the state have called the school offering support and love.”

Individuals and businesses started showing up with instruments to donate or loan. Checks began arriving. Emails came in from local and national music stores and associations offering specific and general assistance.

Radio personalities Kent Phillips and Alan Budwill from KPLZ-FM Star 101.5, along with sister station Talk Radio KVI 570, adopted the school during Wednesday’s morning drive time to raise the $5,000 insurance deductible the school needed. Pledges totaled more than $13,000 from listeners in Washington, Florida and even Canada. Phillips personally delivered the community’s goodwill and met several music students.

“People were crying when they donated,” Phillips shared with KOMO’s Denise Whitaker. “They said, ‘We’ve heard so much bad about kids recently. Let’s do something good.’”

Mattson says the school family went from feeling victimized to being overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. Mattson lists off the types of donations:

  • A full set of new hand bells are being shipped from the Schulmerich Bell Company in Pennsylvania.
  • The Music & Arts Store has donated several instruments to the school, and Ted Brown Music reached out with a $1,000 matching donation so parents who lost instruments could replace the stolen property.
  • World Vision donated a flat screen TV and Symantec in Bellevue stepped up with 15 new computer monitors.
  • The school even received a donation of three flutes from a music store in Marysville. The Marysville music store owner felt compelled to help students in need after a tragedy struck their community about the same time.
  • One gentleman donated a trombone he had played when he was in the Navy in the 1960s. His son had learned to play on his trombone, as did his grandson. The gentleman was excited to be giving this family heirloom to the school.

“At this point, well over a dozen instruments have been replaced from people in the community,” Mattson says. “One week later, our band performed for the news channels for the first time since the theft.”

As the miracles continued, students signed their names to thank you cards. As she added her name to the cards, Claira Hockenson, music teacher, read some of the messages the students wrote. One note read, “Thank you for saving our Christmas program.”

“Our students learned more about the goodness of God and humanity in two days than they usually do in an entire school year,” says Chrystal Clemens, NCS office manager.

Mattson adds, “After the gloomy Monday to start the week of prayer, it was great to stand in front of the school each day and deliver amazing stories of answers to prayer. This has truly been an unforgettable week of prayer.”

As miracle after miracle unfolds at the school, a spirit of awe and thankfulness fills staff and students. Just a few days after the theft, students once again were practicing music. Perhaps this is why the school family sang with extra fervor “How Great Is Our God.”

Featured in: December 2014