First Lake Wales’ Back 2 School Bash … drive-thru style

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LAKE WALES–Each year around this time First Baptist Church in Lake Wales is polishing the final details of the church’s “Back to School Bash”—an extravaganza to celebrate the start of a new school year with bounce houses, water slides, shaved ice and of course, food! 

The event draws nearly 75 families to the festivities each year.

Unfortunately, this year due to the pandemic, church leaders knew that their typical Back to School Bash was not an option. The church would have to improvise. 

“Community outreach is important to First Baptist Church of Lake Wales,” said Candice McKeon, children’s ministry director. “We always want it to be known that we are here for our families, helping with their needs and joining in with their celebrations.”

“So, what did we do?” she asked. “Back 2 School Bash Drive-Thru Style.” 

On Saturday, Aug. 22, the church organized the event that fed the Central Florida community and provided school supplies for the children, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

In just two hours, volunteers handed out 250 hotdogs, 480 hamburgers and over 250 bags of school supplies, McKeon said.  The event started at 11 a.m. and due to the critical needs in the community, approximately two dozen cars were lined up at 10:30 a.m. 

“We had families, in cars and on foot, city workers, police officers and a gentleman on a lawn mower. It was great success,” she said. 

As cars drove on the church property, they visited the free lunch area and then turned right to drive through the school supply line.

“We had individuals from all areas of our church cooking, bagging, directing, handing and just conversing with families as they drove through,” said McKeon.

The next day, Aug. 23, the congregation further demonstrated their commitment to students and teachers, recognizing all educators at the beginning of worship, followed by a time of prayer dedicated to them. 

That afternoon, churches members flooded 10 local schools—from elementary to high school—for the annual Back to School Prayer Walk, where volunteers navigated the grounds and hallways asking God to bless the next school year with His grace and protection. 

The church has been holding worship services for the past four months, adhering strictly to COVID-19 protocols as ordered by the city of Lake Wales, reported Pastor Scott Markley. They are grateful none of those in attendance have tested positive for the virus. 

“COVID may have prevented the inflatables and shaved ice,” said McKeon, “but it did not stop our Heavenly Father using us as his hands and feet, reaching out to our community; and for this this we are so very thankful.

By Candice McKeon, First Baptist Church of Lake Wales, September 7, 2020

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