LIMA — Finding meaningful ways to reach out to the community is one of the challenges of the modern church. However, Calvary Chapel of Praise has come up with a unique way to meet their neighbors.
Starting two years ago, they began to regularly hold the Baxter Park Summer Block Parties. They have held three block parties each year. This year was no different. The first two were on July 4 and July 23. Their final block party for the summer will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
“The idea came from the Beth and Dave Wahlie,” said the Rev. Brandon Green, associate pastor at Calvary Chapel of Praise. “It was a dream of theirs to get these started. The idea was birthed by conversations regarding how do we actually bring our neighbors out to meet one another.”
Nicole Sweeney, children’s director at Calvary Chapel of Praise, said attendance at the block parties has been good, despite the event on July 4 getting rained out. “We had around 150 at our last party in July,” she said. “We are hoping to double that number at our next party.”
The Baxter Park Block Parties are fun for the whole family, which is who the church is trying to reach. “Our motto is, ‘get to know our neighbor,’” said Green. “We endeavor to do that by creating a family-fun atmosphere in a non-threatening environment.”
The events include a professional face painter, live music, games and free food. “We have hot dogs, chips, cookies, soft drinks and water,” explained Sweeney. “We always have those inflatable blow ups, and we do give-aways for things like pizza packages.”
The goal for the block parties is not just to have fun, though. “We want to reach out to the community,” said Sweeney. “We want to give them a safe, fun activity for the whole family. We’d like to also introduce ourselves because our church is kind of tucked back into that neighborhood.”
Green added, “Many neighborhood associations look towards the betterment of their neighbors through civic rules and regulations. Our desire was to build actual community among our neighbors.”
To pull off these events, quite a few volunteers are needed. Sweeney said that their church of around 200 regular attendees has responded to the call for volunteers with about 40 people giving of their time to make things happen.
As a way to build community in the neighborhood, the church has partnered with Lima Civic Services. Lima Civic Services is a relatively new organization that seeks to work within the community and alongside existing neighborhood associations to improve the entire Lima area community.
“Our church founded a partnership with Lima Civic Services,” explained Green, “to begin reaching the homes surrounding Baxter Park.”
Calvary Chapel of Praise using their own financial resources for the events, but they also partnered with area businesses who have also helped to fund the events. “We had Innovative Logistics and B & G Recycling come alongside us as sponsors for the parties,” said Sweeney.
Although the events draw a good-sized crowd, Sweeney said there have not been any big challenges. “Well, the weather has sometimes been a challenge,” she said with a smile. “We kind of got rained out at our July Fourth party, but so far, everything else has gone pretty smoothly.”
For Sweeney, one of the rewarding things about the event is all the new people. “It’s rewarding to be able to meet all the different families,” she said.
For Green, one of the rewards is seeing the responses of the people who attend. “Many neighbors have complimented on us on our endeavors by saying for over 30 years no one has done anything like this in Baxter Park,” he said.
Sweeney said quite a few people from the surrounding neighborhood have visited Calvary Chapel of Praise as a result of the block parties. The church wants to continue to be known as a safe, welcome presence in their neighborhood.
“We have had visitors from the neighborhood,” said Sweeney. “They come after they have been to a block party.”
Because of their successes the past two years, Sweeney said the church plans on continuing the block parties again next summer.
“We want to grow it and to continue to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood,” she said. “We want them to know our church is for the whole family, that it doesn’t just have to be three times in a summer. We want people to know that everyone is welcome at our church.”
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