By Shannon Baker
RIVERDALE, Md.—Bucas Sterling, III, senior pastor of Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md., recently partnered with Everett Pope, senior pastor of United Baptist Church of New Carrollton, Md., and their congregations to provide 720 backpacks filled with school supplies to students in kindergarten through fourth grade at Templeton Elementary School, a Title 1 school in Riverdale, Md.
Title 1 schools have high percentages of children from low-income families. According to Colin Pugh, pastor of youth and administration at Kettering, 80 percent of the population at Templeton Elementary are refugees from war-torn countries. The students, who come from 40 different countries, speak 26 different languages.
Nearly 60 volunteers from both Kettering and United assembled at 7 a.m. to meet parents, staff and students to distribute the backpacks. Principal Ebony Harris said, “Getting to this day has been filled with challenges, personal and professional, but I am very thankful to God for this great gift and support.”
Harris shared that since 2012 she has been praying for two community partnerships. “It truly was answered prayer,” she said, noting the churches ensured everything went seamlessly.
Rhonda Caldwell, operations and administration officer at Kettering, was thankful for the positive response by parents and students at Templeton Elementary. One group of young boys ran up to the registration table and excitedly asked in unison— “in harmony,” as Caldwell put it, “Are we ALL getting backpacks?”
“It was a beautiful day, a very, very beautiful day,” Caldwell said.
“I am so grateful for being able to be a part of churches partnering together to reach the community and we will continue the work,” said Pope.
“This was a great door God opened to us, similar to Pentecost,” reflected Sterling. “We were blessed to reach 40 countries and 26 language groups without leaving Maryland.”
In fact, Kettering has had an ongoing partnership since 2007 with 12 to 15 schools in closer proximity to their church. As in previous years, their church also provided 300 additional backpacks filled with supplies to these schools.
“Kettering is focused on our church being a pillar for the community,” Pugh shared. “It’s a joy to know we’re not just in the community, but an active part of it.”