NEWPORT — A small rural church in the Bridgeport community near Newport in Cocke County is making a difference in the lives of children in the community.
For about 14 years, members of Shady Grove Baptist Church have made sure that needy children in their community will have gifts on Christmas morning.
Shelly Williams, a member of Shady Grove and a first grade teacher at Bridgeport Elementary School, has been involved in the ministry since it was begun by her sister, Shannon Myers.
The ministry is geared toward low income families, said William’s husband, Jordan Williams, an elementary school principal at another county school and associate pastor at West End Baptist Church in Newport.
This is just one way that Shady Grove, a congregation that averages about 65 in attendance on Sunday mornings, reaches out to its community, he observed.
Four years ago, the church added a food bag to the Christmas gifts to make sure the children had food during their Christmas break from school.
“The food was a real need,” said Jordan Williams.
The food consists primarily of items that can be microwaved or eaten from the package, he noted. “We try to give them food that they can prepare on their own if needed,” he said.
Shelly Williams pointed out that most of the families they assist have parents who work. “They are doing the best they can do. They just need a little extra help at Christmas.
“If we can help them and take off some of the burden, that’s what we want to do,” she added.
She said the church is provided with the names of children who may have needs by the school. “We contact the parents for a list of things their children may want or need,” Shelly said, adding that they try to provide each child with shoes, a hoodie and other clothing items as well as two or three toys.
Parents come to the school to pick the gifts and food bags. “The parents have been so grateful and appreciative,” Shelly observed.
This year the church provided Christmas for about 20 families. It varies from year to year, she said.
The couple’s children, Logan and Caden Ford, assist in the ministry. Logan is especially appreciative that the church began adding food along with the gifts. “A lot of kids depend on the school for breakfast and lunch,” he noted.
“Adding the food was one of the best decisions we (the church) made,” he affirmed.
His brother, Caden, is a teacher’s assistant at Bridgeport Elementary. “You see how grateful the parents are. It’s really something to see,” he said.
The ministry is funded primarily by gifts from Shady Grove members with some assistance from West End Baptist members who donate money for the food.
“We have never wanted for anything,” Jordan Williams said. “We have been blessed.”
Shady Grove pastor Jack Swanger is proud of his congregation. “This is just one way we can spread the love of God and tell people about Jesus,” he observed.
“We hope this will make an impression on them that Jesus does love and care for them,” he added. B&R