TALLAHASSEE–Looking to make an impact in its inner city community, members of Unity Baptist Church in Tallahassee sponsored a back-to-school project for a nearby elementary school, donating backpacks and serving a meal for teachers, parents and students during orientation.
“We wanted to reach out to Pineview Elementary, which is our local elementary school,” said Jarvis Jones, associate pastor.“We wanted to be the hands and feet of Christ and do the things that Christ would do in serving people.”
In 2018, the small, black congregation donated backpacks and committed to pray for the struggling school and efforts to improve its Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) scores.
This year’s plan, developed after church members met with the principal, was expanded to provide a meal during the school’s orientation. The plan included food, free backpacks, books, giveaways and even a job fair for parents.
The church partnered with a local caterer to provide the main course of the lunch meal, grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, while the congregation provided side dishes, buns and beverages.
When the day of orientation arrived, the church found cause to rejoice as the school celebrated the improvement of its 2018 FSA school grade from an F-rating to a C-rating, said Carmen Conner, principal at Pineview.
“Early in the summer the church committed to serving refreshments and providing school supplies for our students,” Conner said. “When the time came in August, the church exceeded my expectations! The good people of this church prepared and served full meals, not just refreshments, to each family that joined us on that day.
In addition, she added, “they helped us to provide over 250 backpacks for our students. This was an awesome event, because of the work and planning put forth by this amazing church!”
According to Sean McMahon, executive director of the Florida Baptist Association, Unity Church where Reggie Hutchins is pastor, is a “vibrant African American congregation in a very poor, economically depressed neighborhood. Unity is small, but their members are very committed to the church and one another,” he said.
McMahon said while he loves all the churches in the association, “there are certain churches you really enjoy visiting. Unity is one of those for me. You walk in and they treat you like family.”
Jones said funding from the Florida Baptist Convention helped the small church with the project at Pineview Elementary, allowing the church to purchase additional backpacks.
“Without those funds, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do those things that we did this year,” he said. “It was absolutely tremendous.”
This project falls in line with the Convention’s “Write Beside You” initiative that helps churches partner with schools to make a difference in the lives of students throughout Florida.
“When we partner with a church like Unity, the leadership can take what we do and really take it to the next level,” said Gary Townsend, Florida Baptist catalyst for the north region. “We’re thrilled to come alongside this small church as they make such a significant impact in their community.”
“Our membership saw how God works in regard to our prayers and the resources that surround us,” Jones said. “It was just an amazing thing to come to church that Sunday . . .and to see the smiles and absolute joy on people’s faces when they saw all that happened by the hand of God.
“It was a glorious day. I believe we have grown in regards to prayer because of that.”