Discovery Clubs continues to thrive under Jimmie Hale Mission in Alabamacomment (0)
August 8, 2013
By Julie Payne
Tony Cooper was intrigued. As he began to learn about the mission of Discovery Clubs — to reach kids in public elementary schools with the gospel during afterschool hours — the word that came to his mind was “awesome.”
“Getting the gospel message to these kids is just a wonderful opportunity,” said Cooper, who serves as the executive director of Jimmie Hale Mission, a nonprofit organization comprised of several Christian ministries that reach out to the hurting and homeless.
Cooper began noticing in the Discovery Clubs newsletters that requests for volunteers and funding challenges were some of the organization’s primary messages to supporters. A thought then came to him — the challenges Discovery Clubs was facing were ones that Jimmie Hale Mission could potentially help with.
It wasn’t long before Cooper approached the director of Discovery Clubs, Sharon Ezell, with the concept of a possible partnership, and they both consulted with their boards about the idea.
Soon after, Discovery Clubs came under Jimmie Hale Mission.
“Now they are an official part of Jimmie Hale Mission, just like our other programs like Jessie’s Place, Royal Pines (Recovery) Center and several Mission Possible Bargain Centers,” Cooper explained of the merger, which became official in February 2012.
While Discovery Clubs’ primary mission is to spread the gospel message to children, Cooper also views the ministry as a “preventative arm” of Jimmie Hale Mission. If Discovery Clubs can reach children early, “hopefully they won’t be needing (Jimmie Hale Mission’s) services down the road,” he said.
Discovery Clubs, which began in Alabama in 2003 as Discovery Clubs of Alabama, has not changed its structure, purpose or mission. The clubs last for one hour on participating school grounds after classes are dismissed for the day. Each grade is divided into a boys’ class and a girls’ class, with some grades even yielding multiple classes for boys and girls because of school size.
During a club meeting, students have snack time followed by singing, a Bible study and Scripture memorization. Ezell said the goal is to have three to four volunteers, also known as Discovery Clubs mentors, leading each class.
One of these mentors is Marie Duncan, a member of North Clay Baptist Church, Clay, who has volunteered with Discovery Clubs for nearly nine and a half years. A retired high school teacher and also a Sunday School teacher for 50 years, Duncan’s role in Discovery Clubs has been a perfect fit. “When I heard Sharon speak about [Discovery Clubs] I thought, ‘That is for me. I want to do something for kids that will make a difference,’” she said.
Duncan, who volunteers for the club that meets at Chalkville Elementary School, noted many positives about Discovery Clubs’ connection to Jimmie Hale Mission. “Jimmie Hale Mission is just so established with so many volunteers and so much support from people at large that we feel like we’re surrounded with people who do good work,” she noted. “And we know we have Jimmie Hale Mission as a support.”
Duncan also noted the impact Discovery Clubs has had on children. “Our major goal is to see these children know who Jesus is and give their life to Him and always have His words hidden in their hearts,” she said. “I’ve really been blessed by all of it. … We (the mentors) usually have a good story to tell of the week before of something that happened in the class.”
And there are many stories Ezell can share about the clubs’ lasting impact, like the story of a girl who remained calm as tornadoes ripped through her area. As the girl’s family was moving to a safe place, she said, “Let’s pray,” and after praying said, “I learned that in Discovery Clubs.”
Discovery Clubs is currently operating in schools in Birmingham City, Trussville City, Jefferson County, St. Clair County and Shelby County school systems. “The vision continues to be expansion and trying to get into more schools,” Cooper said. “That will always be the vision — trying to get more kids exposed to Discovery Clubs and the gospel message that’s presented.”
Before any additional expansion of Discovery Clubs happens, Cooper said two priorities are ensuring that current areas of Alabama are covered and increasing the number of volunteers.
According to Ezell, the most significant challenge Discovery Clubs continues to face is securing volunteers. “We call churches (and) go to churches to do recruiting,” she said. They also set up booths at events such as city festivals, and volunteers aid in recruiting through word of mouth.
Cooper noted that Alabama Baptists can pray with Discovery Clubs about additional volunteers, “those people that God wants to be involved and have a love for kids and time available for the commitment,” he said. “We’re in a holding pattern waiting to see who God raises (for) us.”
For more information about Discovery Clubs and volunteer opportunities, call 205-941-9852 or visit www.jimmiehalemission.com/content.asp?id=398587.