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Over the last 12-15 months, we have thrown quite a few parties in Green St. park in downtown Danville, Virginia, as our little way of saying that the Kingdom of God is most at home in the places where the need is most profound. This particular park is one of the public places to which Grace and Main has made a commitment. We believe that parties are a fantastic instrument to spread grace to those who most sorely need it. If you stand in the middle of this park, you’ll see need all around you and if you spend much time in the area you’ll soon learn which houses have been used to perpetuate the crack cocaine problem that plagues downtown and the Northside and which houses have been lost to blight or prostitution–you’ll also notice the many children who call this neighborhood home. At these parties, we asked families what we could do with them to make this little corner of the world a better place. We heard two things over and over: 1) we need more celebrations, and 2) we need something for our children to do over summer vacation. The second request was especially loud in our ears, when we’ve recently learned that 41% of children in Danville fall at or below the poverty line. We know all too well how gangs and drug dealers prey upon our beloved and offer the illusion of escape. In the face of such need and such difficulty though, what can we hope to do?
Grace and Main decided to do the two things we heard most clearly from our dear ones downtown. This summer, we will resource and support two significant projects in Green St. park: 1) we will make sure there is a party in the park every Saturday during summer vacation from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We will eat lunch, play games, and clearly communicate God’s love and grace through our presence and actions, and 2) we will provide daily activities for the children around Green St. park Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting June 25 and ending August 3.
On Saturday, April 14, Grace and Main Fellowship threw a big party in the park to celebrate this commitment and to make sure our beloved know that we’ve not forgotten what they shared with us. Over 300 people showed up for this party, called “Downtown Jubilee,” that was advertised by word of mouth. Several hundred hot dogs were served along with hundreds of bottles of water, soda, and Gatorade and nearly 200 ice cream sandwiches were hurriedly passed out before they could melt (though even the melting ones were eaten). One of the core commitments for the part was to be sustainable and eco-conscious, so two of G+M’s leaders made sure that as much material as possible was composted or recycled. At the end of the day, the trash that couldn’t be composted or recycled fit into three trash bags, though it could have been one if it had been sorted better at the beginning of the day. There was live entertainment and games (with prizes!) for children. There was a “swap” where we were able to give away a lot of clothing, books, and toys along with six bicycles (five of which were donated by Spin Bike Shop–434.793.7746) for our homeless and near-homeless brothers who have recently acquired jobs and need transportation or who are following up promising leads on employment and shelter and a few pieces of furniture.
In short, we think the day was a great success!
We couldn’t have done it without the congregations that partnered with us to make it happen. North Main Baptist Church provided a large, portable grill and much of the food for the event as well as some volunteers. First Baptist Church provided the equipment, prizes, and volunteers to provide a wide variety of games and crafts for children as well as some other volunteers. Blessed Hope Church provided a team of young adult volunteers who pitched in seemingly everywhere at once and fanned out into the local area to remind folks about the party. WBTM 1330, our local radio station, covered the event and ran a story about it several times on Monday, April 16, and a photographer from the local newspaper showed up to document the event, as well.
Finally, of course, we have to thank all those who donate regularly, or have donated in the past, to Grace and Main Fellowship or Third Chance Ministries. Without the support of donors like you, we could not do anything that we report on in these newsletters. Thank you if you are one of those much loved supporters, and if you are not yet a supporter, then we invite you prayerfully to consider becoming one of our partners in advancing the Kingdom of God in Southside Virginia.