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New Dawson ministry to assist Birmingham-area kids, familiescomment (0)

December 22, 2011

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, has long prioritized children in its ministry efforts. Early next year, a family resource center called Kids Connection will expand the Birmingham Baptist Association church’s ministry even further into the community.

In a press release announcing the new ministry, Senior Pastor Gary Fenton cited the expense of raising a child, especially in difficult economic times.

“Unfortunately many families simply do not have the financial resources to take care of all of those needs,” he said.

Kids Connection will help meet those needs, according to Tom Thompson, the church’s minister of stewardship. The center will provide clothes, shoes, coats, diapers and other necessities for children up to 16. Thompson hopes other expensive items such as strollers, sports equipment and school uniforms will be available to families as well.

“It is so costly to raise a child,” he said, “and children outgrow things so quickly. Parents with limited financial ability can’t do it alone and the children go lacking. Our goal is to meet the needs of children who otherwise wouldn’t have what they need.”

The center is a natural extension of the church’s mission, Thompson said.

“We had an ad hoc committee years ago that prioritized ministry to children, and … as we looked for ministry opportunities, we realized God was calling us to meet the needs of children in our city,” he said.

Kids Connection will open in March 2012 in a rented storefront on Green Springs Highway, a few miles from the church’s Oxmoor Road campus. Though Kids Connection will look like a retail store, it is not a thrift store. Families served by the center will receive items free of charge, but they must be referred by other churches and assistance agencies. From conversations with other organizations during the planning phase for the center, Thompson knows the needs are great.

“There is no question that we have seen a dramatic increase in the needs in our community. The number of people who just cannot afford to meet the basic needs of their families has increased, and people who never dreamed they would have to ask for assistance are now having to ask for help,” he said.

“Volunteers will pray with individuals, and we will provide age-appropriate Christian books for each child,” he said.

Currently eight volunteer teams are responsible for various aspects of the project. Once Kids Connection opens, volunteers will staff the center two days a week for four hours each day initially for appointments. Two other volunteer shifts will be available on alternate days to accept donations of new and gently used items that can be distributed to families who receive assistance.

Thompson said church members have given generously to support the project and Kids Connection has been included in the church’s annual budget as a permanent ministry.

“Our church has been very blessed that our members are generous and people have given generously to Kids Connection,” he said.

That includes the youngest members of Dawson Memorial Baptist.

Thompson said during the church’s annual fall stewardship emphasis, children are encouraged to collect money for a specific ministry. This year, the children’s offering was designated for Kids Connection, and the children alone gave about $4,000, mostly in change. Donations also have come in from children’s groups at Dawson, including blankets made by one group of Girls in Action. Thompson said once the center is open, it will provide an opportunity for children and youth to volunteer and participate in ministry alongside adults from the church.

“Kids love helping other kids, and this is a great opportunity for people of all ages to minister to the community,” he said.

For more information, visit www.dawsonchurch.org.

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