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Posts Tagged ‘support staff’

By Karen DeMarino

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Richmond’s First Baptist Church has found ways to safely move forward with service, worship and fellowship, thanks to our dedicated “behind the scenes” building support team and custodial staff. While so many of us have been told to stay at home, these essential folks have the crucial responsibility of keeping our church building functioning safely. Our “lean and mean” teams are well-informed, committed and sincerely enjoy working together.

Bonnie Wilmoth, with the help of her hardworking support staff, oversees the day-to-day operations of our building maintenance for life-safety and security. “Our number one priority right now is to keep all our employees who still need to work in the building on a daily basis feeling safe, protected and comfortable.” For 34 years, Bonnie has been the “eyes and ears” of FBC not only during normal times but also during times of crises or emergencies. Additionally, she manages costs and estimates associated with building and grounds’ contractors and helps with Community Missions.

Barbara Jean Harris brightens up the room with her infectious smile and positive attitude! Demonstrating a new electrostatic sprayer, Barbara Jean expressed how safety and protection have ALWAYS been a priority for our church community. “Keeping the individual rooms within the building disinfected and sanitized is nothing new for us. We offer preschool classes to children with cancer and keeping the classrooms safe for them has always been a priority. The heightened care that has become so familiar to all of us during the pandemic is the way they live normally.” Barbara Jean has been with FBC for 20 years, loves her job and jokes that Bonnie is “glad to have me!”

Curnice Booker, recently recognized for 25 years of service, has a wide range of responsibilities both inside and on the grounds of FBC. Sometimes on a lift or behind the wheel of a bus, Curnice can be found maintaining our space by changing lights and steaming carpets, setting up the gym for Wednesday night dinner and outdoor snow removal. “I am so happy to work with the people I do. It makes a huge difference. It makes the day go better when you can work with people who make you laugh. I also find the personal contact to be nice. Pastor Jim makes personal phone calls, genuinely cares and appreciates what we all do, thanking us all the time.”

Annie McClenny answers our phones on Tuesdays, in person, and remotely from home the rest of the week during the pandemic. At the front desk, she makes sure that no one slips into the building unnoticed. And, she makes sure that all messages from our church family are brought to the attention of the right person. Annie also has “regulars” who call in just to talk. “I assess their needs and develop a plan that may include food or medicine being dropped off. Or sometimes they just need to talk through their problems and have someone listen.”

Amy Howard makes sure that all our rooms, offices and “high-touch” areas are hygienic. “The detailed cleaning that typically happens during our August shut-down is actually happening now. We are steaming carpets, washing windows, cleaning baseboards, radiators and furniture. Floors are being waxed and fresh coats of paint have been applied where needed,” said Amy. Since the pandemic, we’re taking additional daily measures like propping all doors open and wiping down all door handles.

John Pettigrew takes care of second floor custodial duties in the classrooms and third floor youth areas. He also rings the bell tower on Sunday morning, and for funerals and special events. But John’s most important responsibility is to keep our Sanctuary immaculate and ready for Sunday service. “I want our “mother ship” to shine and look beautiful and be better than anything else in the building. I take pride in what it looks like because it is our most important area and is holy ground. I won’t even wear my shoes in the Sanctuary after it has been cleaned.”

Ron Maxwell works with the building support team and, pre-pandemic, took care of daily event set-up. In the afternoons, he cleans and sanitizes the preschool rooms. Ron has a kind “helper-heart” and genuinely enjoys his 20 years with First Baptist.

Beanie Brooks has run a tight ship in Food Service for almost 24 years. She manages the overall budget, orders and organizes food and disposable supplies, creates menus and oversees food prep for events. “I have a wonderful team and thoroughly enjoy working with them. Everyone is very knowledgeable and ‘hands-on’ at all times.” Beanie also noted that she is “ServSafe” certified and is tested annually. Additionally, she is licensed by the VA Health Department, which is governed by the CDC. Beanie explained, “I have continually posted signs saying, ‘Wash Hands ALWAYS’ all around the kitchen!” Additionally, Beanie is gaining quite a following of her own on Pastor Jim’s Facebook group page by sharing her delicious recipes daily. She calls herself a “stress-cooker” and joked that her own food bill has tripled since the pandemic. Beanie also orders supplies for our food pantry and manages the volunteers that help our ministry serve those in desperate need. “Our First Baptist volunteers are amazing! Some of them have been helping our ministries longer than I have been with the church.”

Keith Davenport can be found in the kitchen most Mondays and Thursdays cooking something unique and always tasty! Not only does Keith prepare meals for our staff and members, he also prepares bagged lunches for the homeless who visit our door several times a week.

Vanessa Carter works with the team in Food Service, cleaning and cooking, and has been with FBC for over 30 years providing help where it is needed.

Ben Capps is responsible for keeping our entire kitchen, including dishes, walls and floors immaculate.

Collectively, over 200 years of dedicated service has been provided by our faithful building support team and custodial staff. From behind the scenes, they are what make First Baptist church operate efficiently and they all do so, happily, with faith, hope and love.


Karen DeMarino

Karen DeMarino serves as our Social Outreach Coordinator. Karen comes from a marketing communications background, most recently working with the Diocese of Richmond’s Department of Education as marketing director for 29 Catholic schools in Virginia. Additionally, Karen is marketing consultant for All Saints Catholic School and serves on their marketing board. Karen has two adult teens, Adreanna and John, and a rescue pup, Scruffy.

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Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Sean Cook, Jeannie Dortch and Allison Maxwell.

They have the gift of hospitality at its finest.Vanessa Carter and Doris Pittman may be unfamiliar names to some First Baptist Church members, but they form the backbone of an organization where food and fellowship are central to its core. Having begun their service on the kitchen staff with retired Food Services Director LaVora Sprinkle, Vanessa and Doris have been feeding and nurturing FBC members for over 25 years.

Lynn Turner, Minister of Christian Community, summed up their importance this way, “This church would fall apart without these two ladies because at the center of who we are, other than our gospel message, is our fellowship, and Doris and Vanessa epitomize that!”

LaVora, Vanessa and Doris began their association with each other at the Windsor Nursing Home in the 1980s where LaVora worked as the home’s dietician. When LaVora joined FBC’s staff under Dr. Jim Flamming, not only did she encourage the hiring of both Vanessa and Doris but she also enrolled them in culinary classes at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College. Both began their tenures as part of FBC’s housekeeping team, but joined the kitchen staff as openings became available. Now, they work like a well-oiled machine with Beanie Brooks, current Food Services Director.

Before moving into the elegant Flamming Hall in 1996, food preparation and dining on Wednesday nights occurred in the Fellowship Hall, currently the Choir Suite, in the basement of the church. The kitchen was much smaller and located in the present choir robe storage area. Limited space did not hinder the camaraderie of the 400 to 500 adults and children who would gather each week for supper. A dumbwaiter was used to send food upstairs where the children gathered. Volunteers helped the kitchen staff serve adults on 12-foot folding tables that filled the hall.

Much of the same equipment that was located downstairs is still used in conjunction with newer and more efficient appliances to help the staff serve about 200 on Wednesday nights. Fewer young families attend now due to demands on their weeknight schedules.

Doris and Vanessa still work a busy five-day week, Wednesday evenings, and every other Sunday. They accommodate a range of groups including Women on Mission’s regular monthly luncheons, new member luncheons, and funeral receptions. When not cooking, serving, or teaching others how to serve, they are cleaning the kitchen and making sure that supplies are stored properly.

Each Monday, Vanessa and Doris meet with Beanie to plan for the week, making lists of tasks that need to be done. Beanie orders the food from suppliers, but all three plan the meals by taking suggestions from ministers, as well as from members who ask for repeat favorites or special dishes. The menus have become more varied over the years with options for gluten-, salt- or sugar-free substitutes.

One thing that Doris and Vanessa agree on is how much love there is in FBC’s congregation. They have met and loved so many families over the years and those same families, “greet and embrace us as part of their families too!” exuded Vanessa. Doris added, “When the congregation gave me my 25-year celebration party, I was surprised to see how many people came to honor me. That felt so good and showed me how much I am appreciated. I knew it was my calling to be here and I love it.”

Ann Carter summed up how many feel about Vanessa and Doris. “They are the heart and soul of ministry at FBC because they notice things. At my daddy’s memorial service, they served chocolate chip cookies in memory of his sneaking into the kitchen after Wednesday night dinners to ask for extra cookies, with an added request not to tell my mother! Hospitality is a form of love, and these ladies have the gift of hospitality at its finest.”

They have the gift of hospitality at its finest.

First Helpers volunteers give hearty thumbs up to Doris Pittman (L) and Vanessa Carter (R).

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