Archive for the ‘FBC Family’ Category

Story by Allen Cumbia. Photos by Allen Cumbia and Sheila Dixon.

Side by Side is a phrase that conjures up many images. One might think of a married couple, navigating the daily challenges and joys that make up married life. Or one might think of co-workers in a corporation, prodding and encouraging one another as they seek to create a great new product. Or how about a team of firefighters, tackling a dangerous wildfire that is threatening to destroy a community directly downwind from the blaze?

Side by SideHere’s another image of Side by Side—a team of committed and loving church members who seek to offer some monthly recognition, encouragement and refreshment to the church staff of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Over the past 15 plus years, we have had a group of dedicated individuals who have sought and succeeded in doing just that.

Side by SideIt began as an inspiration from one of our members, Suzanne Shonnard. “I just remember wondering, shortly after 9/11, who supports the small group (the entire church staff) that supports all of us? There were many demands on their time and expertise, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m sure they have the same fears, doubts, questions we all have. They experience the same joys, challenges, and sorrows that the rest of us do. So maybe there is something we can do to nurture and care for this small group’.” From this beginning, the Side by Side ministry began to plan monthly gatherings where the staff could step away from their busy schedules for a few minutes and enjoy fellowship, laugher and conversation over some food or treats, as well as celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries.

Side by SideOur pastor, Jim Somerville wasn’t expecting this when he first arrived. “I remember how surprised I was on the morning of my first staff meeting as the new pastor to find a breakfast banquet set up in the hallway at First Baptist Church, and staff birthdays and anniversaries being acknowledged, but not nearly as surprised as I was the next month when it happened all over again. Never in my ministry have I experienced more staff support than here, and I am grateful to the loving volunteers on the Side by Side team who make us feel special not only every month, but also every day.”

Side by SideOn a three-month rotating basis, the staff enjoys breakfast together one month, lunch together the next, and then some afternoon sweets and treats on the third month. Rebecca Ozmore says, “It’s a way to thank those who often serve others but aren’t often served by others. I like baking for the staff because it brings me joy. As long as they keep telling me it tastes good, I’ll keep baking for them when I can!” To that Ralph Starling remarks, “Side By Side is our oasis at church. They offer us healthy and delicious foods for different occasions and demonstrate a spirit of hospitality! They make us feel valued! They mean so much to us!”

Side by SideOther Side by Side team members are Dot Smith and Carrie Thompson. When Ed Dancy was helping, he created individual greeting cards on his computer for every staff member as a way to help celebrate birthdays and service anniversaries. Dot Smith says that she, “just loves her church and the staff. I think they do a great job and this is one way to thank them.” And our staff loves Side by Side. “Every month this wonderful team makes us feel special!” says Lynn Turner. “Whether it’s recognizing birthdays or anniversaries, the Side by Side team is like a breath of fresh air that for a few moments each month reminds us of our connectedness as a church staff. They make family memories.”

Side by Side“The Side by Side team has been so faithful in showing us hospitality” adds Ruth Szucs. “They have come up with different ways to show appreciation to each of us on the staff through, breakfast, lunch or desserts. I can’t believe they have been doing it for so long. The smiles and hugs are so welcomed and appreciated. The smiles can really buoy the mood. It makes me want to do an appreciation event for them.”

What a great model of what the Kingdom of God should look like—friends supporting and loving friends through their gifts of time, talents and hospitality. Thank you Side by Side. May we be able to give back to you as much as you have given to us.

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by Terry L. Whipple, MD

Cynthia was a sophomore in college when she decided she wanted to become a nurse practitioner and work in women’s health. However, as an honor student in the English department, she lacked the necessary prerequisite science courses in order to apply to attend nursing school. Michael wanted to be a pharmacist like his dad, but did not take the necessary chemistry and math courses in college to qualify for pharmacy school.

Both Cynthia and Michael were frustrated when they realized that they would have to take additional semesters of undergraduate studies to obtain the necessary credits to apply for a medical program. A similar scenario is repeated every year for students interested in radiation technology, medical school, veterinary school, even counseling. Preparation for health care careers must start early to satisfy all the educational requirements.

A Health Club

Youth Health Club visits Richmond Ambulance Authority

When we saw a need to help provide youth with more information on health care professions, we formed the first Youth Health Club at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. The Health Club is a special interest club for young people in grades 9 – 12, and those who are in college, who have an interest in health care or are considering any career related to health care.

Through the activities and programs of the club, they have the opportunity to learn many of the skills and much about the subject matter related to a variety of careers in health care. And, it helps them to either affirm their interests in pursuing a health care profession and plan their college programs accordingly, or confirm that their aptitudes lie elsewhere.

A Health Club

As a club, they choose which topics they want to learn about, research those topics in teams, present their research findings to one another in lectures, and then select their next topic of study. A team of adult guides is available to assist and mentor the youth as they select the topics to research. And, the guides or guest instructors provide the participants with training in basic health services and testing, such as taking blood pressures, screening body mass index (BMI), infection prevention, or even administering hearing tests, but the youth run the Club, researching the subjects and teaching one another.

With this knowledge, the Youth Health Club participants become available to serve in the community. They are equipped to take part as an organization in Health Fairs around the city—providing education and training on the topics they have studied, and are able to administer simple medical tests for which they have trained. Additionally, they can present brief health education programs to Sunday school classes and other church groups.

Most importantly, the youth are empowered to make an informed decision on whether health care is the profession for them.

If you think you might be interested in a health care profession, this is your Club. If you’re an adult who is interested in guiding youth in what it takes to be a health care professional or are interested in mentoring youth as they research health-related topics, consider joining the adult guides. Check it out on Wednesday nights at FBC in the Youth Suite at 6:30 p.m.

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 Story by Jeannie Dortch.

“My dad exemplified the philanthropic effort of volunteering. He always worked in some capacity to help others through his church service as a deacon, on mission trips, or in his community. And always without sacrificing time with family and friends who needed him. When you grow up with that, it becomes part of you too!”    —David Lawrence, physical therapist and amputee specialist

A serious foot injury while in college on a basketball scholarship changed David’s career goals to health and physical education with a certification in athletic training. But his desire to work with people rather than on them sent him back to school for a masters in physical therapy, earned in 1990.

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceDavid began using high-tech prosthetic devices with youths who had lost limbs. With this knowledge he created an amputee clinical education program for physiatrists (physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation) while working at McGuire Veteran’s Hospital in the early ’90s. Soon he was hired by Sheltering Arms Physical Rehabilitation Center as their prosthetic and sports medicine specialist. While there, he helped create an amputee clinic system they still use today. Working for At Home Care during the next six years, David developed a program to train home health care therapists to work with patients who had complex treatment needs.

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceIn 2000, David learned there was a world-wide epidemic of young amputees with no access to care; due to a civil war, there were 40,000 in Turkey alone. Under the auspices of Physicians For Peace, David made his first volunteer trip alongside other physicians. He created a triage system, determining protocol as he worked. Initially, they attempted to use prosthetics brought from the U.S., but learned that creating a prosthetic center in Turkey would be more efficient. The curriculum David wrote for how to administer pre- and post-care to patients receiving a prosthetic limb is called Walking Free. This initiative was so successful in Turkey that it is now being used at nine locations in six countries. The process has taken 17 years to develop, and David still gives continuing education courses when he visits countries, keeping in touch online with therapists afterwards.

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceLawrence Rehabilitation Specialists, Inc., also known as The Gait Center, opened in 2006 and is the only center of its kind in the United States. Unlike typical therapy centers, Lawrence Rehabilitation works primarily with patients whose issues limit their ability to walk, whether it be from orthopedic or neurological causes. Local prosthetic and orthotic companies work with The Gait Center, making molds, casts, braces, prosthetic limbs, knee units, feet, and shoes specifically tailored for the complex care administered by David and his team. “Most cities can provide good surgery,” commented David, “but the best care to teach a patient to walk again is in Richmond at The Gait Center.”

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceThough David travels the globe to help amputees in other countries, he has wanted to find a way to help more U.S. patients. In 2017, he plans to bring to Richmond a youth for whom doctors have been struggling to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. After treatment at The Gait Center is completed, David will take the patient back to his hometown. There he will be used as the model to teach doctors and therapists how he was rehabilitated to peak performance. This will be David’s first official outreach project under Mission Gait, his foundation that became a public charity in 2016.

One key to this process will be the technological piece. After a hands-on workshop, a self-directed online certification program for U.S. therapists will be available on the Mission Gait website where practitioners may become certified in The Gait Center’s level of complex care. Finally, professionals will work directly with David’s patients at The Gait Center and take exams to become certified providers for specialized care in their states.

Steppin' Out with David Lawrence

Carolyn and David Lawrence

David was asked to define success. Wanting an answer that could be fully implemented into his life, he decided, “Success is an ongoing process of making the most of the gifts, abilities, skills, and opportunities that God has put in front of me.”



Author’s note: David’s wife, Carolyn, is the Director of Human Resources, Office Manager and Facility Designer of Lawrence Rehabilitation Specialists.

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Don’t sit around!

Story by Erin Cumbia

From the outside it can sometimes seem that churches, especially churches effective in their ministries, run fairly smoothly. It does, however, take a surprising quantity of gifted people willing to give their time and talents to make it all work. Laura Harris is one of these people.

Laura Harris

Laura Harris

From childhood Laura has generally avoided participating in sports of any sort, choosing instead to be heavily involved in clubs and other social activities. However, growing up near Raleigh, N.C. gave her access to various sporting events. She spent much time attending ball games and tailgating with family and friends, reveling in the social interactions and relationships that were built. This interest, coupled with internships in marketing during her summers through high school and college, set her up with a background of marketing and event management.

recreation imagesLaura and her husband, Chris, came to First Baptist Church shortly after their marriage in 2001 and joined the Young Couples Sunday School Class. Soon Chris got involved in Upward Basketball in the Richmond area as a referee, and Laura tagged along taking pictures and cheering from the sidelines. Upward became a very meaningful way in which to minister for them. In 2005 they approached Steve Booth about the possibility of bringing the Upward program to FBC. Leadership at FBC had already been tossing around the idea for a few years but nothing had yet been done to make it happen. Laura and Chris stepped up and made it happen. Working as a team, Chris handled the technical or sports side of things and Laura, the details, planning and event management aspects. The Harrises have nurtured FBC’s Upward Program and made it the ministry it is today.

In 2017, 185 children participated in Upward Basketball and Cheerleading. Laura’s own children have also grown up in the program, first by cheering from the sidelines and helping their mother with set-up and now as participants in the sports. Laura noted what a blessing it has been to see them experience the program from both sides and to grow up surrounded by the Bible verses and devotions that are part of the programming.

Buddy Burgess retired in 2015 as minister to the Deaf Congregation and the Recreation Ministry. At the same time, Laura was looking for a part-time job. According to Laura, “the whole process was really a God thing,” and it was truly amazing to look back and see how everything she has done professionally and through her volunteer work had prepared her for the job of FBC’s Recreation Coordinator. Laura’s new position includes coordinating the following programs:

First Travelers
FBC Night at the Diamond
First Riders
Musicians’ Jam Sessions
American Red Cross Blood Drives
Upward Stars Summer Youth Basketball Camp
Youth Summer TGA Premier Tennis Camp
Classics in the Courtyard
T’ai Chi with Jenny Barone
Gentle Yoga with Sarah Humphries
Open Gym Volleyball
S.K.E.I.N.S. (Sewers, Knitters, & Embroiderers Involved in Needlework & Service)
Boy Scout Troop, Cub Scout Pack and Girl Scout Troop
Upward Basketball & Cheerleading
Rim Rattlers Basketball
FBC Night/FBC Upward Night at the Richmond Spiders Men’s Basketball Game
First Baptist Church Golf Tournament

The constraints of budget, time, scheduling, and volunteers precludes the possibility of new programs at the moment. However, Laura’s dreams for the future include softball, pickleball, exercise/Bible study classes, and active aerobics like Zumba® or line dancing.

Laura shared the biggest things she has learned through her time working with the recreation ministry. Never judge a book by its cover—you never really know who a person is or what they are capable of until you get to know them. So many of us have gifts that go unused because nobody took the time to ask. Follow your passion because if you pursue what you are passionate about you will always love your job. Use your strengths to work for the Lord. We may not all be cut out for traditional overseas mission work but we can still be missionaries in our own backyard using whatever talents we have. No matter what our strengths are and no matter how small, there is bound to be a way in which we can use them to glorify God.

Though she avoided actual participation in sports her entire life Laura has found herself working in that environment and has been able to use her natural abilities in marketing, organization and event planning to make FBC’s Recreation Ministry a successful program for everyone involved.

Editor’s Note: For more information on any of these programs, contact Laura Harris.

Erin CumbiaErin Cumbia has grown up at First Baptist Church. After graduating from Liberty University she moved back to Richmond and is now working as an Account Executive at SageView Advisory Group. She is currently very involved in the Young Professionals Sunday School class and has had the honor of serving as a deacon since January of 2017.


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Story by Alex Hamp. Photos by Paul Bickford, Alice Brette, Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

Carter Bearden, Pat Allen, Mary Hiteman, Alan Jones, Buddy Burgess, Steve Blanchard, Alex Hamp, Laura Harris. Numerous faces have come and gone through the Preschool, Deaf, Recreation, and Community Mission ministries at First Baptist Church, but one face—that of Robin Hendricks—has remained constant. During the past 28 years, Robin has faithfully served all these ministries as an administrative assistant. She will retire on June 30th, having joined the church staff in September of 1989.

Robin Hendricks retires
Robin was first hired to assist Carter Bearden in the Deaf Ministry and Pat Allen in Community Missions. Technology was not yet the office norm so most of her early tasks were done with paper and pen. Her duties included monthly reports, calendaring, copying—and any other tasks asked of her. Both the Deaf and Community Missions ministries changed hands in the 90s, moving to Buddy Burgess and Steve Blanchard respectively. Robin assisted them both as they navigated their new roles. Steve shared this about Robin, “When I first was hired as the Missions Minister in 1997, Robin was my part-time administrative assistant. She not only helped me get oriented to the ins and outs of First Baptist life as a new employee, but was always willing and able to help in any way she could. I really appreciated her help and to this day appreciate her as a friend to me and my family.” Eventually Buddy took on the additional position of Minister of Recreation from Alan Jones, so Robin helped in this ministry too.  Her work was critical in keeping track of registration forms as Upward Basketball, Indoor Soccer and Blood Drives became very popular in our community.

Robin Hendricks retiresOne of Robin’s biggest joys has been working with the First Baptist Preschool children and families. Since 1998, first under the leadership of Mary Hiteman, Robin has served as the administrative assistant for the preschool. She has been kept busy with various tasks which include recording tuition payments, calendaring, laminating, subbing in a room when needed, and even being a graphic artist, designing t-shirts and programs for school.

Robin’s role was critical when the preschool leadership was handed over to me in 2014. She helped me learn the behind-the-scenes tasks of the preschool, was able to anticipate when I was not sure what was coming next, and became a great sounding board. She has also been loved by our families. According to Preschool mother, Beth Fuchs, “Ms. Robin’s knowledge of the inner workings of First Baptist Preschool, her uncanny ability to remember the name and details of every single child and his/her family, and her genuine love of all the kids is so apparent and such a blessing to our school.”

Robin Hendricks retiresRobin has enjoyed her time here at First Baptist Church. She has watched the change of leadership of the Senior Pastors from Dr. Flamming to Dr. Somerville, as well as in all the ministries where she served. She says this has required that she be flexible and adaptable to the times and the style of her supervisors. She has enjoyed the relationships she has made with the people and families of First Baptist Church and First Baptist Preschool. Robin is looking forward to moving to Baltimore to be with her daughter’s family, but will find it bittersweet to give up her near-daily trek across the Huguenot Bridge to First Baptist Church.

Alex HampAlex Hamp was named Administrator of First Baptist Preschool in 2014. She has been educating and nurturing young children and their families for the past twenty-three years, first as a kindergarten teacher at William Fox Elementary School and now at FBC’s preschool. She and her husband live in Hanover County with their four children. In her spare time, Alex enjoys traveling, reading and watching her children play sports and perform with their show choirs.

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Story by Fred James. Photos by Matthew Brown and Susan Brown.

It was a fun and music-filled weekend for the James Gang. We had a Saturday afternoon music performance at The Dogwood Terrace Retirement Community. Things were going well during the performance when the unexpected occurred. Our daughter, Phoebe, whispered to my wife, Julie, that she had to go to the bathroom and Julie told me to keep the crowd entertained while she helped Phoebe.

In my surprised state, I couldn’t think of a song to play and sing. I have a nice instrumental of “Just as I Am,” but just as I was, I couldn’t remember what it was. Therefore, I did what I do best, I just started riffing, while I expressed my gratitude to God that we get to play music for audiences like them and then talked about the delicious gumbo that Julie made earlier in the week.

When we all get to heavenWhen Julie and Phoebe got back and we were about to get rolling again, we noticed that Ian was gone. Ian is on the high—functioning end of the Autism Spectrum and has wandered away most of his life. We decided to start the next song anyway, knowing that he would make his way back eventually.

And he did, sliding in like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” He grabbed a tambourine without breaking stride and accompanied us on the fly. It was pretty surprising and awesome at the same time! Between helping to set up the equipment, performing and greeting the audience afterward, Ian is really growing and it is amazing to watch. He drives us crazy like any other middle schooler would, but he is also making us very proud.

When we all get to heavenWhen we finished the set, one of our biggest fans in the audience requested “When We All Get to Heaven” for the next time we play. We agreed and worked it out the following morning before heading to church. FBC was hosting the Ebenezer Community Church Choir from Minneapolis. The choir was powerful, flamboyantly-dressed and very LOUD. They sang two songs with help from their energetic band. Also, their contribution to our congregational singing of the Doxology was simply stunning. Julie and I are in the FBC choir and we had to sing after them. We were to perform a very soft and emotive song, which was as far removed from Ebenezer’s as you could possibly get. Then I remembered we were singing for an audience of one—God who loves all kinds of music. Our brilliant music minister, Phil Mitchell, selected our song very carefully and the contrast was quite intentional.

We returned to church that night to attend Ebenezer’s concert. The Ebenezer Choir was fantastic. It took a little while, but eventually most of the audience was on their feet clapping and dancing. When the concert ended, the music continued and a sort of conga line broke out in the front of the sanctuary with everyone, black and white, dancing, laughing and praising God. I would like to imagine that when we all get to Heaven, it will be something like the James Gang has been singing—What a day of rejoicing it will be!

Read related story, Turning the Loss of War into Hope.

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Story by Beth Allen Cuthbert.

Betty Allen sometimes describes herself as a “Connecticut Yankee.” She was the last child born in the 18th century house in Guilford, CT, where her father’s family lived for over 250 years.

Betty’s mother, Claudia, who grew up in Arlington, Virginia, certainly didn’t think of herself as a Yankee – she yearned for her Virginia home. When Betty’s Virginia grandfather died and her father was invited to join his late father-in-law’s real estate and insurance business, Claudia claimed she never said anything to her husband to encourage the move. She simply closed herself in a closet and prayed. Betty, however, always doubted this story because Claudia never kept a thought to herself! In any event, the family moved to Virginia, and Betty was soon joined by a little brother, Billy.

A good student, Betty graduated as valedictorian in the first graduating class at Arlington’s Washington and Lee High School. She was 16 years old when she left for Duke University at the end of that summer.

George and Betty AllenBetty met George when he traveled to Arlington to visit his uncle who was married to Betty’s great aunt. They had a date on a Sunday night, and George wanted to take Betty to the movies. Betty’s mother was a strict Southern Baptist. She loved movies, but not on Sundays. On this particular evening, however, she made an exception to her rule: Betty and George could go to the movies. Instead, the couple changed plans and went dancing at the Shoreham, which was much worse. Betty never told her mother what happened.

A year later, after Betty had graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke, she and George married, George having sold his car to pay for Betty’s engagement ring. They settled in a small apartment on West Grace Street, in Richmond, where Betty kept house and George practiced law with his father in the Mutual Building.

Housekeeping was new to Betty. Until her marriage, she had never made a bed or helped with the cooking because she could never meet her mother’s high standards. But as a new bride, she was a quick learner. Soon, she and George were inviting other newly-wed couples to dinner in their home. They took dancing lessons at the Country Club of Virginia and enjoyed evenings out playing bridge at friends’ houses. George and Betty spent a wonderful 52 years together raising four children, Beth, Margaret, Ted, and Meredith.

George served in the state legislature for 27 years. With this job came special opportunities. Betty’s favorite was meeting Queen Elizabeth when she visited the United States in 1957 to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Betty still has the kid gloves she wore to shake hands with the queen.

Betty AllenService to community is important to Betty. A member of First Baptist, she was honored to be one of its first women deacons and to hold leadership positions in Woman’s Missionary Union. She served on the board of The Virginia Home for 40 years. Until 2015, she sent Christmas cards to every resident. An art history major, Betty led docent tours at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and also served on its Council and Board of Trustees.

After George’s death in 1990, Betty carried on with her busy life and spent time enjoying the company of her seven grandchildren. In 2002, she moved to Cedarfield Retirement Community and continues to entertain friends with her upbeat outlook and great sense of humor.

Read related story:A Few Good Women

Beth Allen CuthbertBeth Allen Cuthbert, Betty Allen’s daughter, grew up at First Baptist and was involved in GAs and youth activities. She was a lawyer for 30 years, most of that time in Petersburg, where she now lives. She has two grown children, who live in the Richmond area. Beth is retired and takes classes and teaches at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

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