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Faith community aims to forge bonds

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Barbara Batts, right, the coordinator of the Twin County Autism Support Group at Englewood United Methodist Church, chats with Frances Hart of Mount Zion First Baptist Church on Thursday during the Down East Partnership for Children Faith Based Expo at the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools Teacher Resource Center.

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By COREY DAVIS
Staff Writer

Saturday, June 23, 2018

More than 40 people representing 18 local churches from various denominations came out Thursday for an event hosted by the Down East Partnership for Children at the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools Teacher Resource Center.

The purpose of the first-time Faith Based Expo was a way for the faith-based community to share and connect with each other around health, early care, education, family support services and other outreach ministries.

Debra Lanham, research and development director of the Down East Partnership for Children, said the desired outcome of the event was for churches to collaborate and build a coordinated community of resources that engages and supports families to help children to become healthy, lifelong learners by the end of third grade.

“We wanted to give our faith-based partners an opportunity to share their best practices with how they reach out to the community and support children and parents,” Lanham said. “The faith-based community is one of our largest group of volunteers and have always believed in service, taking care of each other — and they’re just a natural partner that supports all of our goals. Also, to reach children they’re usually associated with a church, so we want to partner with our faith-based partners to support their goals and values.”

The Faith Based Expo featured a breakout session where church members walked around and interacted with other members.  Church members showcased on display boards put together for the event some of their outreach ministries they do in the community.

Barbara Batts, a member of Englewood United Methodist Church, talked to other church members coming to see her display board about the Twin County Autism Support Group at her church, which she directs, that helps provide support and resources to families that have children with autism. 

Batts connected with Angela King, pastor of In His Way Ministry in Rocky Mount, who is an itinerant teacher and works with children with special needs in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools. Batts said she and King are looking for a day and time when Batts can come to King’s church to share resources about autism.

“Angela and I have talked about having our autism group come to her church because you have parents that don’t have the transportation and also need these resources to help their children,” Batts said. “It’s great that the Down East Partnership for Children can have an event like this where faith-based organizations can come together and we can spread the word about the wonderful things churches are doing in the community.”

King said it’s important to have faith in the school and it’s the responsibility as a faith-based community to reach out to the children and help the efforts of the Down East Partnership for Children. She added it’s refreshing to have churches from different races and denominations in the same setting discussing ways to collaborate to help improve the community.

“It’simportant for all these different denominations to come together because the scripture teaches us there is one God that we serve,” King said. “We understand as churches that doing things together to help improve our youth in the community is so significant to the future of our community.”

Viola Barnes-Gray, ready communities coordinator for the Down East Partnerhip for Children, said the hope is the event will push the faith-based community to continue to work together beyond this occasion.

“We hope they keep having dialogue and collaborate to help local families and children while building bridges across all denominations,” Barnes-Gray said.

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