Faith-based coalition looks to help youth
by Laura Stone | January 8, 2019 1:00 pm
Last Updated: January 8, 2019 at 4:04 am
A new organization has sprung up in Summerton with an eye toward helping the children in the community. The Faith-based Community Partnership Coalition has sprung up to address a need to help Summerton’s children both in and out of the classroom.
The organization began in early October and meets every second Tuesday of the month. It is comprised of teachers, parents, pastors, school board members, elected officials and community members at large, all with a desire to see Summerton’s children succeed.
“We have a very diverse group of people with lots of energy who want to support our school district,” said Kathleen Gibson, Coordinator at the Community Resource Center in Summerton and also the events planner for the Coalition.
The Coalition fosters support for the schools, the school district and the students, and it encourages the parents to be a strong part of their children’s educational process.
According to Reverent Robert L. China Jr., Pastor of Historic Liberty Hill Church and Chairperson of the Coalition, they seek to foster support through a faith-based organization, the churches and the community, encouraging churches to reach beyond the walls of their sanctuaries.
“We’ve got to go outside and be concerned about people in a holistic way, not just about how they are on Sunday morning,” said China. “We have to be concerned with how our children are doing in school. When the church shows an interest, it means so much to the children.”
Through hosted events and through participation in events hosted by the school district, community or town, the Coalition hopes to ensure the community it is there to help in any way possible.
“We are right here, not in Sumter or Manning,” said School District One Legislative Liaison Ethel Marshall, who has been elected as recording secretary for the Coalition. “People don’t have to go to Manning or Sumter or Columbia to find out what they can do. We can tell them what help is available right here and help them get that help.”
The organization is already helping the Summerton area. Over the Christmas holidays, the group gathered items for deserving families, and the community at large jumped in to help through donations.
“We want to make a connection with the community, and we want them to feel comfortable with the organization,” said Gibson. “Yes, I’m helping the, but it’s not about me, it’s about this organization. I’m just so proud to be a part of it.”
The Coalition also encourages not only parents, but also the community at large, to support the local children at events. In January, the school district will hold an academics banquet, although the date is not yet set. However, the group will not only be present, but they hope other members of the community will attend to show the community spirit of support and love.
“We often hear that it takes a village to raise a child. But can we also not expand that to say it takes a village to educate a child?” said China.
The goals of the organization are to get commitment from every parent to be involved in their child’s educational process, to get the faith community interested in the students’ progress, encouraging them do give their best, to get pastors and faith leaders to attend school board meetings and to bring a strong community pride to the area in support of the schools and the children.
“I joined this organization because I support its mission,” said Marshall. “I am committed to the children of the district, and I’m committed to the organization, because I think it’s a very worthwhile effort we are putting forth.”
During February or March, the organization hopes to host a vendor-inclusive event, similar to the health fair, but with an educational and family focus. The tentative plan is to have exhibits for services to help children grow in certain areas and to help the parents be stronger parents, get better jobs or go back to school.
“When people are informed, it brings balance to the community,” said Gibson, who feels the event will showcase resources for local families.
According to China, the group is also looking at holding an event to assist families with scholarship applications. China is aware of a woman in Sumter who has a business teaching people how to apply for scholarships, and he hopes to bring her to Summerton for a workshop day. As scholarships can be applied for as early as seventh grade, China hopes this will help local families plan better for their children’s educational futures beyond high school.
The organization is planning a summer event, although they have not settled on anything firm at this time.
Any member of the community who wishes to join is welcome. There is no monetary cost, but members are expected to commit time and effort in attending both community and school events as well as helping with Coalition-hosted events.
“We want people who will be committed and people who will give of themselves,” said China.
Anyone wishing to have further information may call China at (803) 468-1095 or Gibson at (803) 485-2043. Prospective members are also invited to attend the next meeting, which will be held on January 8.
“This community means the world to me,” said Gibson. “I have yet to see an organization like this one stand behind us. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the district to get parents involved and the community involved. This is an awesome job; it really is. It gets more challenging every year, but the significance is the same. We must take our children to the next level.”