Archive for the ‘KOH2RVA’ Category

by Mark Larson

With the year 2020 only weeks away, this seems like a good time to check in on our many initiatives; to see how God has used our church to spread his seeds of love.

As we reexamine the 12 goals of our 2020 Vision, let’s think about two questions: “What did we accomplish?” and “What did we learn about God’s will for Richmond’s First Baptist Church?”

Your level of involvement in the 2020 Vision process will inform your answers. Were you among the hundreds who participated in the town halls? They produced a thousand responses that guided the 2020 Vision Team. Were you among the hundred who volunteered for one of the twelve Implementation Teams?

As the co-chair of the 2020 Vision process, I was blessed to watch over the entire process for four years and observe each team pour their souls into the planning.

As Bill Wilson predicted, not all our goals were realized as envisioned—but so many were. I know God continues to use each team’s work for the benefit of our church and His Kingdom. Here’s my perspective on what was accomplished:

Don't look now; it's almost 2020We now have a discipleship blueprint for our children and youth programs. This guide spells out how we seek to nurture the faith of our children, their growth in the image of Christ, and lead them to become followers of Jesus.

Well-attended marriage enrichment seminars continue to be held every fifth Sunday. A part of this effort is a social media site called “Us First” that regularly sends encouragement and helpful tips for sustaining a healthy marriage.

Don't look now; it's almost 2020Have you seen our community garden lately? The first full year in partnership with Tricycle Gardens went very well. Urban farmers work one-acre plots at the church’s property in Hanover County after being trained by Tricycle. Fresh produce from the First Baptist plot was harvested throughout the summer and used to feed families in “food desert” areas in Richmond.

Our partnership with local schools Glen Lea Elementary and Albert Hill Middle continues through the work of several dedicated members. They provide support to teachers, take on small projects, and serve as lunch buddies to students. Our Children’s Ministry is getting involved through a mission project to collect clothes for children at Glen Lea.

The Adult Discipleship team was very ambitious in setting out ten objectives for the Formation Team to implement over time. “Leadership FBC” continues to prepare our emerging lay leaders for service to our church.

New this summer was 3D groups (dinner, discussion, discipleship).  Each 3D group had 8 – 10 participants who meet over dinner to delve deeper into the pastor’s most recent sermon. The small group size provided a comfortable place for discussion. New 3D leaders are being trained as we form new groups.

Speaking of small groups, some initiatives haven’t yet bloomed to the degree we hoped: interest groups and the formation of 100 small groups. Having common goals, these two teams joined efforts but still found it challenging to start and sustain new small groups.

In trying to understand the challenges, we realized over 100 groups already exist with some connection to FBC. These groups are not necessarily small nor even meet within our Monument Avenue facility, but they provide a sense of community that is so important for spiritual and personal relationships. New small group creation remains a high priority and church leadership is exploring ways to nurture and sustain such groups.

Another team with a similar realization looked at our connection to the neighborhoods that surround our church. While they initiated several outreach activities, a quick survey revealed we are already very engaged with our neighbors. Would you believe that on an average week, as many as 500 neighbors walk through First Baptist’s doors? Most of these are young families who participate in Upward, Scouts, City Singers Youth Choir, Vacation Bible School and First Baptist Preschool.

So we have all these neighbors already coming into our building each week. There seems to be an obvious opportunity for invitation right in front of us.

For two years, a small group of young adults provided worship at an alternative time other than Sunday morning. The “Gathering at Five” was an intimate and casual Sunday evening service with an average attendance of around 30. In the end, it became apparent that most participants had already attended church that morning. They were there primarily to support the worship team and provide a welcoming atmosphere. Though it didn’t take off as envisioned, many friendships were formed and several members were given a chance to be worship leaders.

Don't look now; it's almost 2020As a result of the visioning process, our communication team now has a clearer picture of how media is changing and a plan for how it can be used most effectively at FBC. With the use of Shelby Systems as our new database and a completely redesigned website, members, regular attendees and staff are now better informed and connected. The new system also provides a mobile app with a pictorial directory of contact information for those who sign into the system and populate it with their data. A giving portal is also available for those who prefer to give online.

Also in the near future, expect a new focus on telling the First Baptist story so others in Richmond can see and join our mission efforts.

Finally, a team examined how we use our gathering spaces. They listened to four years of feedback from all the other teams and soon will propose a few changes to common spaces around the church. Tweaking a few spaces really could help us welcome and connect with all who enter our doors.

A common thread seems woven into the mission and results of each team. It’s a desire to build and strengthen relationships within the family, with each other, and with our neighbors across Richmond. This is an echo of Christ’s command that we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind—and love our neighbors as ourselves.

When relationships are carefully planted and nurtured, love is bound to grow!




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by Steve Blanchard

Duane Merrill was a mainstay in Richmond’s First Baptist Church’s Community Missions ministry for many years. We first met Duane when he came to FBC as a participant in Community Missions. He had experienced homelessness over the years and came to FBC to receive a hot meal at Grace Fellowship on Thursday nights and to take showers on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Duane quickly became much more than just a participant; he became part of our FBC family through his willingness to volunteer with the Compassion Ministry even while participating in the programs. He was a quiet individual but was always on the lookout for ways to help others. He even served as the custodian for the shower ministry.

In the winter of 2017, during a long period of frigid weather accompanied by snow, Duane awoke one morning in his tent by the James River and found that he was suffering from extreme frostbite, which resulted in the amputation of both of his legs below the knees. After extensive hospitalization and therapy, Duane received prosthetic legs and was trying to adjust to his new way of living. Several members of the church helped Duane in a variety of ways, however, the emotional struggles from past and present issues overcame Duane, and he passed away on July 16, 2018.

Duane's DenDuane had become so much more than just a participant in the programs offered through the Compassion Ministry so it was in the latter part of November 2018 that Charlie Ball, Bonnie Wilmoth, and I began to think of a way we could help other homeless individuals during extreme frigid weather so that Duane’s initial situation might not be repeated. The idea of establishing an emergency shelter to help others in this particular crisis began to take hold. As the idea developed, we decided to name the project Duane’s Den to recognize Duane’s deep commitment to the Compassion Ministry. On Wednesday, January 30, Duane’s Den opened unexpectedly during a particularly frigid evening. The first night seven people stayed in the shelter as we only began announcing it that day. However, the next evening it housed twenty-seven.

The shelter will function much like the CARITAS shelter that FBC operated for years in July and November where we, as a partner church, housed and fed anywhere from 35-110 people at a time for one week. Duane’s Den will operate slightly differently in that we will not offer meals or showers except during extended stays. It will simply be a safe, warm place for the homeless to find shelter when the temperature or wind chill drops below 15 degrees, or in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado or severe snowstorm. The shelter will open at 6:00 p.m. and will close the following morning at 7:00 a.m. Hours may be extended in the case of a natural disaster or snowstorm. The shelter has a capacity of 50 individuals.

Duane’s Den, established in Duane Merrill’s memory, honors the life of a quiet, gentle, compassionate man who became part of our FBC family.

Duane Merrill


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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos courtesy of Paul Bickford, Ried Stelly and Mark Williams.

Callout-BLOG-kohx2In September 2013 Jim Somerville explained KOHx2, FBC’s second yearlong mission trip: “How much more possible it would be to bring the Kingdom if FBC partnered with other people, other churches, and other agencies and institutions. Everything is easier when you have a little help.”


SKEINS knitted wares

A little help is what made this story grow into one worth telling!

In December 2012 I heard Ann Curry from the TODAY Show tell everyone listening to the morning broadcast to perform 26 acts of kindness in memory of the children and teachers killed in Sandy Hook, CT. I had promised FBC’s SKEINS ministry (Sewers, Knitters, Embroiderers involved in Needlework for Service) that I would knit hats for children in South Africa, but had not made good on my pledge. It was that number 26 that gave me the goal and end point I needed to begin.


Playground built by money raised
through special offerings

It wasn’t long before I met Mark and Sara Williams, CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) missionaries to South Africa, who were visiting Richmond, and gave them my first four feeble attempts. Then I learned about more ties between FBC members and the Williamses. June Burton was raising money to dig a well for the villagers in the community where Sara and Mark work. Debbie Boykin and Candi Brown were leading mission trips to that community, and Candi was spearheading a campaign to raise money to build a playground there.

I wanted to draw attention to these good causes, too. When the Fine Arts Team sought artists to display their work in the annual Arts and Crafts Show, I wondered if my hats, each unique, were considered show worthy? With a few phone calls, I discovered they were. And with a few more calls, I gathered more SKEINS knitters to contribute their work as well. These hats gave opportunities to share with the show’s attendees about the other FBC ties to South Africa. Gwen and Truman Smith, Sara Williams’ parents, answered questions about Sara and Mark’s work. June Burton provided flyers on “Digging Wells for Eli,” the project she named in honor of the Williams’ son. And a signup sheet for the first mission trip, led by Candi, was available.

Pratt Stelly-250px

Pratt Stelly on mission in Tibet

Pratt Stelly stopped at our Arts and Crafts Show booth and later wrote on Jim’s blog, referring to participation in FBC’s year-long mission trip as riding on a metaphorical bus that stops for passengers to disembark and help those in need: “At the Arts and Crafts Fair I was drawn to the darling baby hats from the SKEINS group. I was given a pattern right there on the spot, and stopped to buy yarn on my way home from church! I knit 10 hats before I left for China …. And this is where I got off the “bus.” While I want to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, I feel like we should also bring the Kingdom of Heaven wherever we are in the world. I took my hats to Tibet in hopes of finding an orphanage, but could not find one that took babies. I decided to give the hats to needy people I passed on the street. … While we did not speak the same language, we shared the feeling of love for one another, and that is what it is all about. I will continue to knit and give hats wherever I am.”

Marian Robinson, another new knitter, says: “I saw the preemie hat … at the Arts and Crafts Fair. I was especially interested in the unusual design pattern. Jeannie sent me the directions. I was thrilled and excited to be part of this mission. I started immediately along with my cousin Kathy who was visiting from Massachusetts.

Mark Larson and kids

Mark Larson on mission in South Africa

We knitted a dozen hats in time for Mark Larson to take with him to South Africa in October. The task was a simple one, but the satisfaction received was more than I could have ever imagined.”

And finally, from Linn Kreckman, founder of SKEINS: “After listening to Gwen Smith speak at Missions Friends in September, Evan, my 6-year-old grandson, wanted to find time with me to knit for ‘the children who don’t have a mommy to keep them warm.’ His hat was a labor of love, full of beginning knitter’s holes, but one that was knit from the start to share.”

South African kids

FBC mission team members sharing hats
with SAF community

It is amazing how so much more can be accomplished when the work is joyfully and willingly shared. Math is not my strong suit, but KOHx2 may just be the easiest multiplication problem I ever worked!

Editor’s note: The goal for “Digging Wells for Eli” is $7,000 for one well. At the time of this writing, almost $6,000 has been raised and digging began November 11, 2013. For more information, contact June Burton.
For information on SKEINS, contact Linn Kreckman.
Jeannie Dortch just finished her 26th hat and plans to continue knitting.

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By Billy Davis. Photos by Sharon McCauley.


Puppet team at RIR

We have all heard the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed – try and try and try again!” This certainly was true for those of us on the Richmond Baptist Association (RBA) team who started a ministry among the thousands of raceway fans coming to Richmond International Raceway (RIR) for the two big spring and fall NASCAR weekends.

We first focused on a Sunday morning worship service. Seeking approval to begin such an outreach effort, we received a “Yes,” but when the NASCAR Daytona executives changed the RIR venue from Sunday to Saturday night, our ministry was no longer needed.

Opportunities did not close to us, however. Motor Racing Outreach of Charlotte, NC, which provided worship, counseling and a children’s ministry for NASCAR drivers and crew member families on Saturdays, invited the RBA team to join them in their work at the Richmond track.

racetrack team SMcCauley

Ministry volunteers at RIR

Early in 2000, Dover and Middle District Associations joined RBA’s team in a broad-based ministry effort at RIR. Then the RIR was purchased by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). The new ISC president and many of his staff are Christians who knew the value of a raceway ministry. These two changes began a significant time in the development of the ministry now known as Central Virginia Raceway Ministries (CVRM).

CVRM provides chaplains for each race weekend at RIR. These chaplains minister to families in many situations, including when injuries and deaths occur. Our volunteers, both lay persons and clergy, work in four-hour shifts. In addition to counseling, they distribute between two and four thousand pieces of Christian literature, Bibles, driver picture cards, and hospitality packets each weekend. The Virginia Baptist Disaster Relief Unit joins us in handing out cookies, lemonade and cups of water to fans. The Puppet Ministry from FBC has entertained children with their message of God’s love.

Raceway weekends bring to Richmond enough fans to make up a city as large as the fifth or sixth largest in our state. They come with all the needs of any city this size. One fan, a recent Christian, asked if he could hang out with us each day. He said, “I’m a former alcoholic. If I go back to be with the guys and gals I’ve come with, I could fall off the wagon.”

We believe there is a need for the ministry among the 100,000 plus fans coming to RIR for each race weekend. As Dean Kurtz, Executive Officer for Guest Services, ISC Daytona, said, “Everything under the sun is found at a race track and the steeple ought to be also!!”

ICON-billy-davisBilly Davis served as the RBA Consultant for church programs, strategic planning, partnership missions, and deacon, youth and senior adult ministries. Since retiring, he has followed his great passion for Raceway Ministries at RIR where he has served as a chaplain and volunteer coordinator since 2000. Billy and his wife, Linda, have two children, Barry and Susan, and three grandchildren.

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By Lee Byerly. Photos by Susan Brown.

It’s been said, “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Summer Camp at Essex VillageI received an awakening while volunteering for summer camp at Essex Village Apartments (see related story). I have lived! How? I was awakened to the reality of young children, each unique and precious, each needing a smiling face from someone who genuinely cares. I could be that face and didn’t need anything in return.

Every day of camp about 12 children knew the smiling faces and love of FBC volunteers who gave their time, talent and treasure. Several of these children are from Pakistan, Kenya and Somalia and are trying to assimilate into a new culture and way of life, while still retaining their sense of identity. This they did with great joy and anticipation every day.

Mornings were filled with one-on-one tutoring, listening to students read, working out math problems, and playing various games. Higher level thinking skills soared as Checkers became the game of choice among students who wanted to play the adults. After lunch Josie Carver led creative art projects.

In addition to art and core subjects, Steve Blanchard (FBC’s Associate Pastor with the Ministry of Compassion) helped organize field trips. We took the students to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Three Lakes Park and Nature Center, and on a historical tour of Richmond. Steve was an excellent tour guide! Each student took notes of the travels and compiled them into a short personal essay that was shared with the class.

Other outings included lunches at McDonald’s and Sweet Frog where the children found good opportunities for decision making. Those who completed their summer reading were also treated to Chick-fil-A.

That reading can continue with many wonderful books provided by First Baptist for the children and adults of Essex Village. These books and two new book shelves were presented on the last day of camp.

Many exciting moments, many small victories, such a short amount of time. That kind of success happens when there is a combined effort – children, parents, volunteers, all under the direction of Mrs. Ernestine Dockery-Roy and her husband from Seeds of Promise Outreach Ministries, Inc.

Summer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex Village

Lee ByerlyLee Byerly and his wife, Lisa, are members of the Travelers Adult Bible Fellowship. Lee teaches tennis. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with their daughter, Rachel, fishing, camping, snowboarding, and following college sports.

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By Rebecca Ozmore. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

When First Baptist hosted CARITAS in July 2013, we didn’t get on the KOH2RVA  bus – the bus brought Richmond to us.

Most of us are familiar with CARITAS from FBC’s tradition of hosting homeless men during Thanksgiving week. Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter provides individuals overnight shelter at local churches. CARITAS was looking for additional summer hosts because it’s a difficult season for scheduling. FBC was looking for another way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia (KOH2RVA). When we heard 40 homeless women needed shelter, we opened our doors.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Overall, this week was not much different from the men’s week. The women arrived by bus each evening. We provided a meal, opportunity for a shower, and a place to sleep. We also provided toiletry bags with linens, shower items, and a request form for needed items including clothing.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.We scheduled activities each evening, blessing the women and giving them opportunities to bless others. There were presentations from the Fan Free Clinic and Richmond Police Department. On bingo night, one of the winners gave her prize of a cosmetic bag to another woman who had been hoping to win it. Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries led a praise and worship service on another night. Several of the women and volunteers commented that they were touched by FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.the service; twelve of the CARITAS women went forward at the end for prayers with the ministers.

FBC members volunteered to wash loads of laundry for the women and donate specific items, sometimes within just a few hours of an email request. One church member made 50 pillowcases, no two alike, to give each of our CARITAS guests. She attached Psalm 4:8 to the pillowcases, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (NLT).

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Many of the women expressed their gratitude for staying at the church and the delicious meals provided by FBC members. But perhaps their appreciation was best summed up by their reactions to receiving the items they had requested earlier in the week. Volunteer Vicky Nicholau commented, “Women cried when they opened their ‘Need Bags’ and received things they thought they would never get.”

Heaven was definitely at FBC during this week. And we didn’t have to take a bus ride to find it!

Rebecca OzmoreRebecca Ozmore is an elementary school counselor for Henrico County Public Schools. She and her husband, Gerry, helped start the Young Couples Adult Bible Fellowship of which they are still members. Rebecca and Gerry have two sons, Grant and Charley, who keep them very busy. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and being outdoors. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and looks forward to Hokie football every fall.

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By Ann Carter. Photos by Ann Carter and Len Morrow.

I’ve had a whirlwind mission-trip season.

Youth 1 gardeningAs part of a six-week gardening class this spring with Len Morrow (see below) Youth 1 planted potatoes in a roof top garden at the former Adams Camera Store. That building is being refurbished through ReEstablish Richmond to assist refugees who have been brought to Richmond by federal programs. The youths also worked with Len to prepare gardens around FBC for planting with summer annuals.

arkansas-cardgame250pxAt the end of June, I took 16 Youth One kids and five adults to Passport Camp, an annual week-long event that focuses on discipleship and hands-on mission time. In July I led a group of 10 children and youths and 15 adults to Helena, Arkansas. This has also been an annual mission trip, where we partner with, serve and love that community.

manila-youth250pxAnd 12 of us finished up the season in July with another bit of heaven in Singapore at the Baptist Youth World Conference, followed by a mission trip to Manila, Philippines—two more weeks of bringing heaven to earth—and experiencing heaven on earth!

These times were heaven on earth for me. I know saying that seems like a stretch. Really? Digging in dirt on a roof top? A week with middle schoolers at camp? Sleeping on the floor of a church with 24 of your closest friends and showering in a trailer? Yes!!!!!

Youth 1 on missionBut let me explain!

There is something really beautiful about traveling together, living together in close quarters, working together, learning together, worshiping together, playing together, laughing together, eating together, resting together, and growing together. Emphasis on together!

At the end of each experience our love for God and our love for each other has multiplied and deepened and strengthened so that we came home longing for more time together.

Youth 1 on missionActually, what we are longing for is heaven. Because I think that is what heaven will be like: people who love God and love each other, living, worshiping, eating, fellowshipping, playing and laughing, resting and working – together.

Look for more information on Len Morrow.
Find out about ReEstablish Richmond or email Patrick Bradford.
Editor’s note: Ann Carter serves on the FBC staff as Youth Associate.

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Story by Carrie Larson. Photos by David Powers.

The door opens to sparkling chandeliers, white tablecloths, balloons, and confetti. A gasp or two is heard. Then timidity is replaced with excitement, and lunch begins.

calloutBlackwell Elementary School is located in one of the poorest areas of the city, but that doesn’t dampen the dreams of its teachers. They wanted their 5th grade students to experience a formal lunch – not fast food, but a three-course meal with real plates and silverware, and the students dressed in their “Sunday” best.

Fifth-graders celebrate with formal luncheon.On June 14, 2013, the dream became reality at FBC as 90 5th graders and their teachers celebrated the students’ completion of elementary school. Twenty-five volunteers helped make sure each child had a wonderful experience, but it was also a learning experience for all. The students – napkin in lap, start with the outside fork, and sit up straight. The volunteers – serve from the student’s left, pick up from the right, and don’t rush them. Everyone muddled through with smiles and laughter as they got to know each other, learning about planned trips to Water Country and King’s Dominion, pesky brothers and sisters, and other typical kid concerns.

Fifth-graders celebrate with formal luncheon

Abby Dini, Site Coordinator at Blackwell for Communities in Schools; Carrie Larson, First Baptist leader; Reginald Williams, Blackwell Elementary Principal

From the master of ceremonies and principal the students were challenged to follow their dreams and make good choices as they leave the safety of Blackwell and enter middle school. Mr. Parnell from the Richmond Flying Squirrels related how he decided at 10 to work for a baseball team. Detective Harrell from the Richmond Police Department advised the students to pick their friends wisely and trust the adults in their lives (including the police!) to help them make good decisions.

The teachers say there was a noticeable change in the students’ behavior when they returned to school – they are now a little kinder, walk a little taller, and act a little more mature, and occasionally one of the boys will pull out a chair for his teacher. One of the girls said she had often driven by FBC several years ago with her grandmother but never knew she would be welcome inside. Now she knows she is.

FBC has hosted this event for eight years, originally with the help of Alcoa, now solely with volunteers. What began as a dream has become an eagerly anticipated annual event, and a little bit of heaven!

Editor’s note: When Carrie worked for Alcoa, she served as a representative on Blackwell’s Community Advisory Group. With support from Alcoa, she worked with Beanie Brooks, FBC’s Food Services Director, to make this dream a reality. When Alcoa left the Richmond area in 2008, Carrie continued hosting the luncheon,  gathering volunteers from FBC’s Foodservice, her Sunday Bible study class, and her husband’s office. This year a group of volunteers joined in from the “Radical Hospitality” book study group led by Ralph Starling, Associate Pastor for Christian Invitation.

Carrie LarsonCarrie Larson met her husband, Mark, at First Baptist over thirty years ago. They have one daughter, Ashley, who grew up in the church. Carrie is a deacon, a member of the Next Step Bible Study Class and serves on the Communion Team. She is an engineer with the US Army at Fort Belvoir. In her free time, she loves to cook and entertain. She and Mark particularly enjoy introducing international students to American holidays and traditions.

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Story and photos by Jeannie Dortch.

FBC’s work with Essex Village began in 2010 when FBC member Sandra Millican began tutoring Than Sein, a Burmese refugee (see It takes two to tutor). When Than and his family moved to Essex Village, he started attending Laburnum Elementary where Sandra continued to help him. As other New Americans, originally from Bhutan, moved to Essex Village, more doors opened and FBC’s ministry there grew.

Essex Village afterschool programThe first time I arrived at Essex Village to tutor at-risk children in the newly-formed afterschool program, I noticed that one of the other tutors was wheelchair-bound with no use of her legs and not much of her arms or hands.

I was mesmerized with her command of the children. She radiated joy, sweetness, care, and knowledge, and the children responded to her with respect and obedience. This volunteer, I learned, is Teresa Jackson, a Title 1 math assistant at Laburnum Elementary. She volunteers in Essex Village’s afterschool program as part of the non-profit Seeds of Promise Outreach Ministries, Inc., started by Ernestine Dockery-Roy, recently retired assistant principal at Laburnum Elementary. With the godly leadership of these two women, the tutoring space has been transformed into a place where children can find safe refuge and feel love’s warmth.

calloutGetting to know Teresa better is something I was determined to do to learn what motivates her to work in such a mentally and physically demanding job. Visiting with her at Laburnum Elementary reinforced the concept that humans are only limited by their thoughts. Teresa whizzed through the corridors in her motorized wheelchair and explained her philosophy of teaching. “I’m not handicapped. I’m disabled, meaning I’m not necessarily able to work like you do, but I am able to get the job done. It may take me a little longer, but the results are the same. I love children and I want to see them succeed, and that can be done in or out of a wheelchair.”

Essex Village has a population of more than 500 children, all living below the poverty level (less than $17,500 for a single parent with two or more children). According to Steve Blanchard, FBC’s Minister of Compassion, “The needs are great, but our partnership with Essex Village is showing promise as a blessing to those who live there, but even more so to the people of FBC.”

Teresa sums it up, “I love to see children brighten up by what they learn. Many of the students in our program come from abusive families, and I want them to know they have teachers who care about them. Some of the kids say, ‘I can’t try no more.’ I tell them, ‘Think can, not can’t. I don’t use the word can’t. Look at me! If I can, you can. I don’t pity you, nor do I want to. I am motivated by you. I want you to find something that motivates you so you too will experience God’s blessing in your lives.’”

Essex Village afterschool programEditor’s note: Seeds of Promise will provide a summer camp from July 8th-August 1st, Monday-Thursday, 9:00-1:00, for elementary school children in Essex Village. The camp will include arts and crafts, outdoor activities, and lunch. In the fall of 2013 a nine week afterschool tutoring session will be held. For information on how to contribute to these opportunities contact Jeannie Dortch or Sandra Millican.

Find a list of ongoing Essex Village Projects at http://fbcrichmond.org/KOH2RVA/projects.htm.

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Story and photos by Joyce Clemmons.

First Baptist began its partnership with the Cooper School on Martin Luther King Day 2013. Students from the school reciprocated by serving as reading mentors to First Baptist Weekday preschoolers each Thursday. In May FBC honored Cooper’s teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

The carnival came to town on May 4th, and it parked at the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School (AJCES) in Church Hill.

AJCES Spring BashBarkers invited folks to come on in and play! Step right up – get your tattoo! Right this way for face painting! Get the best fish sandwich in town! Climb a tree – you bet, we have your climbing gear ready! Get one of those balloons that Mr. Clown twists into incredible shapes! Shoot some hoops, ring some sodas, pick the winning rubber duck from the pond, spin the wheel and win a whole lot of tickets!

From 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., a couple hundred folks participated in the games and activities at the AJCES Spring Bash. Smiles were exchanged, hugs were traded, and Pastor Jim Somerville and School Head Mike Marusa got into the fun and games along with everyone else.

Prizes were awarded for the high ticket winners and the lucky players had a choice of an array of items – NFL footballs, NBA basketballs, hockey balls, hula hoops, great family games like Scrabble and Parcheesi, books, gift cards, DVDs, and much more.

One of the highlights was a chance for students to throw a pie in the face of an AJCES teacher. Several teachers volunteered, and the aim of the students was phenomenal. Even the local policeman on duty took his turn for the pie throwing fun.

AJCES Spring BashA DJ kept the place rocking for hours with music that filled every inch of that school playground. Information on Habitat for Humanity was available. Delicious homemade baked goods were for sale. Families are Magic gave away precious brown dogs (stuffed, of course). MCV Medical Center, Richmond Metropolitan Hospital, and fire and police departments were available with demonstrations, gifts and excellent advice.

The generosity of the congregation of First Baptist was amazing. More than 100 gifts were donated for the carnival. In addition, about thirty volunteers assisted with the games and prizes and enjoyed the celebration. Even the weather cooperated with sunshine and crisp breezes.

The carnival moved on but the relationship between First Baptist and the Cooper School is here to stay.

Editor’s note: Learn more about the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. To serve as a mentor to an AJCES student contact Katye P. Snipes, School Administrator, AJCES, 804.822.6610.

Generosity Team: Lorna Brown, Chuck Dean, Walter Morton, Mark Roane, Joy Townsend, Joyce Clemmons, team leader; Steve Booth, staff liaison.

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