By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
UPPER MARLBORO, Md.—In the fall of 2010, staff from First Baptist Church, Upper Marlboro, had a meeting with staff of nearby Frederick Douglass High School and asked them, “How can we serve our community by serving your school?”
They met with Marilyn Walls, head of the music department, and Adaya Powell, athletic director, who serve on a community involvement team. These school leaders outlined numerous projects that would serve the school in a meaningful way.
In the church’s first project, volunteers helped the athletic department clean out some well-used closets. Helping hands took out all the closet’s items gathered over many years and placed them on tarps on the gym floor. They sifted through the materials and organized them systematically within the storage space.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for members of our church to work right alongside staff and students of their school. It was also an opportunity for current students to work alongside former students,” shared Jason Brown, First Baptist’s music director.
“Through the course of the day, we helped create a lot of smiles,” he said.
The second project took volunteers outside to the school’s inner courtyard, which had become overgrown with weeds and tall grass. Volunteers, split into teams, demolished old worn-out benches while others worked to restore what could be salvaged.
Teams worked together to weed and trim plants as well as mulch the gardens (with $1,000 worth of mulch provided by Prince Georges County).
“Many parents got to work alongside their children. And those children got the opportunity to work alongside their pastor [Jim Burcham],” said Brown. “Again, church volunteers got to work alongside the school’s staff and students, continuing to build relationships with the school.”
Brown added, “In one day, an overgrown courtyard was turned into a usable beautiful yard.”
Since that time, the church has donated a piano and a drum set to the school’s music department.
But for Brown, the most exciting joint effort so far happened at Christmas.
Brown partnered with Walls, at her request, to direct a 110-voice choir—70 voices were from high school students—in a combined Christmas concert held Dec. 16 at the church. In addition to selections sung by the choir, the Douglass drum line performed a special rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” and the church’s youth group bucket band performed.
In preparation, Brown helped lead rehearsals at the school. And in turn, Walls conducted rehearsals at the church. What resulted was powerful.
“Words can hardly describe how well the concert went,” shared Brown. “The place was packed—over 600 people came. The joining of musicians was wonderful. It was such a wonderful time with the Douglass High School students.”
Brown said the growing partnership has created an excitement at the church.
“People are coming out of the woodwork to serve,” he said. “It’s a great blessing.”
In future projects, church volunteers will repaint the school’s stadium bleachers and concession stands, re-carpet and otherwise beautify their music rooms, and help with mentoring and parenting classes.
But the church has an even bigger vision. They want to look at another school where they can grow even more partnerships.
“God has certainly blessed this opportunity, and we look forward to being a part of what He will do in our community,” Brown said.