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Shades Mountain Baptist Church members ‘spruce up’ Tarrant city school buildingscomment (0)

May 15, 2008

By Manda Gibson

On Saturdays in April the halls of the Tarrant city schools, near Birmingham, were full — not with schoolchildren, but with members of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, in Birmingham Baptist Association. They were painting, picking up garbage and trimming hedges, all with the hopes of making a physical and spiritual impact in the Tarrant community.

Shades Mountain had been involved in state and international missions and wanted a way to get involved locally.

"Our pastor has a vision to see our church outside the walls of the church building," said Gary Harvey, minister of education at Shades Mountain.

The Tarrant City School System was a perfect fit. The city’s school buildings needed some cosmetic updating, but the school system couldn’t afford the upgrades on its own.

Harvey headed up the project along with James Vaughn, coordinator of facilities and maintenance for the Tarrant schools.

When Harvey called Vaughn to propose the project, Vaughn thought it sounded too good to be true.

"We certainly weren’t expecting this, but just out of the blue he called," Vaughn said. "It’s still just hard to believe that they chose us."

Vaughn and Harvey worked together on logistics. The school system determined how much it could contribute financially toward the project, and the church took care of the rest.

Together they purchased paint and tools like brushes, rollers, drop cloths and tape. A local Kwal Paint store location gave them a good deal on the paint.

On Saturday mornings Shades Mountain volunteers showed up at one of the Tarrant schools, ready to paint or, when they had enough painting volunteers, to do whatever else was needed to spruce up the buildings. They had so many volunteers — more than 1,100 total — that they were able to expand their original plan and paint all or part of the district’s four schools and its board of education office.

"They painted more than I thought they would," Vaughn said. "The quality was great. I was really surprised with the quality of the work."

On the last Saturday in April the church hosted a block party for the Tarrant community. Community members enjoyed slides, a dunking booth, inflatable play structures, face painting, food and a basketball shootout — all for free. The church also gave away iPods and a bicycle.

In addition, Shade Mountain’s student choirs gave concerts and the church made a short gospel presentation.

Guests were encouraged to complete registration cards. More than 327 people indicated on their cards that they were not affiliated with a church. Shades Mountain has shared those cards with local Tarrant churches, who will follow up with those individuals.

Harvey says the block party was the largest public gathering that Tarrant’s residents can remember. They told him that it breathed new life into their community. And he says the whole project helped community members to see God’s love.

The project also had a positive impact on Shades Mountain. Some of the volunteers hadn’t been involved in missions projects before, so it served as a great first project for people who weren’t yet ready to go halfway around the world on an international missions trip.

"God reminded us that we’re here to serve and to love the Lord by loving others," Harvey said.

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