By Sharon Mager, BaptistLIFE Correspondent
DUNDALK, Md.—Grace Place received Norwood Elementary School’s inaugural “Community Partnership Award” from school principal Patrice Goldys at the church’s annual appreciation dinner for the teachers and staff of the school. The dinner, hosted by Grace Place members at the church on June 12, also featured the surprise presentation of a special guitar pick and pick holder to the church’s pastor, Troy McDaniel.
“This is an unusually strong partnership—one of the strongest we’ve ever had because of its consistency. The love of children and wanting education to be better is definitely a focus of the church,” Goldys said.
The church has prayerfully worked to develop a partnership with the school, giving out cookies on the first day of school last year, volunteering and giving the children Christmas presents. This year they helped the school with vocabulary and reading programs by painting globes with black chalkboard paint that allowed students to write their vocabulary words on the globes.
One of the most exciting projects, McDaniel said, was partnering with over 130 students as pen pals. The students wrote questions to McDaniel and other church members and the church answered the children. Fourth grader “Ariana” said, “I asked Pastor Troy if he had any brothers or sisters and what it’s like to work at his church.”
McDaniel said the letters were varied, but many were curious about his work and about Grace Place. Church members also were thrilled with the opportunities to correspond with the students.
The last phase of the partnership this year was helping with an end of year book character parade. The local Mars Supermarket donated grocery bags and Grace Place members cut out arm holes to create 600 vests/book jackets. Students then decorated them with vocabulary words, pictures and copies of letters. The children proudly marched around the school as music played from loudspeakers.
At the parade, Pastor McDaniel was on hand to wave to the children, giving them ‘thumbs ups’ and telling them ”Way to go!” and “Good Job!”
Goldys said she is thrilled with this partnership. “It has been wonderful!” she said. Speaking for the church, McDaniel said, “We wanted to help our neighbors, and the kids are important to us because they’re the future of this neighborhood.”
For this special gathering, church members decorated the sanctuary and served pasta meals to the school staff. This year, the church was blessed with flower centerpieces donated by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The flowers were used at the NOBTS annual luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltmore and offered the flowers to a local church. Grace Place was happy to share the flowers at their teacher dinner.
McDaniel also praises God for the incredible opportunity He has provided.