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 one Arlington church in Texas is discovering.
Since October, Rush Creek Church has asked each member to donate $1 per month to the Dollar Club, creating a fund used to provide financial gifts, benefiting deserving — and unsuspecting — church and community members, like one of their beloved senior citizens, Jessie Roberson.
Growing up, “church was all we had,” Roberson, who attends the Green Oaks campus, recalled in a video filmed for church.
“We didn’t get to go to swimming pools. The only time we got to go to a swimming pool was Juneteenth,” recalled Roberson, noting the challenges she faced during those years as an African American.
“Because of [her faith], I learned to forgive,” she added. “God wants us to have a spirit of forgiveness.”
On video, Roberson also mentioned the difficulty of life as a widow, now legally blind from glaucoma, whose husband had taken her everywhere. She described the source of her joy: God and her regular two-hour times of daily morning prayer.
During 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 teary-eyed, 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.”
It started with staff
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 to 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,” said McFadden, who explained 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.
Blessed so far
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.
At some point during the filming, Ellis, the designated Dollar Club host, typically interrupts the video and presents the gift.
Ellis said she loves being the Dollar Club host. “I was very nervous at first … but it’s been a blessing to be able to watch and be part of that connection with the recipients.” She added that she had “learned a lot along the way.”
McFadden said the choice of Ellis as host was perfect and confirmed that beneficiaries really are surprised: “We haven’t done this long enough so the recipient knows what’s coming.”
In addition to Roberson, 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 a son, one of their four children.
Michelle Fornal, a single mother of two whose daughter, Savvy, had 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,” said McFadden, 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 for the church.
Rush Creek does not foresee the Dollar Club ending.
“We plan to go on for years and years to come,” McFadden said.
At Rush Creek, the buck doesn’t stop, but goes on to bless many.
To view the Rush Creek Dollar Club stories, visit rushcreek.org/dollar-club.