Thursday, September 17, 2009

First Baptist kids helping other kids

This is not exactly a reach-out for support by First Baptist Church in uptown Charlotte -- but a lesson of how one group is teaching children to help other less-fortunate children.

Since 2003, the children in the First Baptist's Royal Ambassador (boys) and Girls in Action programs have pedaled in a bike-a-thon around a track at Northside Baptist Church to raise money for boys and girls who live in the 14 Baptist Children's Homes across North Carolina.

The homes take in children from broken families. Most have been abused -- or hurt in some way.

This year's rally, which they call "Bike for Change," will be Oct. 17. But the event works differently from the ones you're probably familiar with. The church's children don't actively seek sponsors, who then pony up money for every mile they ride.

Instead on Sunday, during the morning service, the congregation will hear a guest speaker tell how she was abused as a child and came to the live in the Baptist Children's Home in Thomasville, near Greensboro. She's remained on the staff ever since.

Speech over, the kids at First Baptist will ask for and collect offerings from congregants.

They have given generously in the past -- handing over a total of $71,064 in six years. All the money goes to Baptist Children's Homes, which relies on Baptist churches across the state to keep its facilities operating.

"It's a really good way to give our kids a hands-on experience, to reaching out to help other kids," said Jay Westmoreland, a Baptist Children's Home trustee and director of the Royal Ambassador program. "It's a wonderful learning experience for them. For starters, they learn how truly blessed they are to have the families they are raised by.

"It teaches them about important ministry work."

They resist asking the children to recruit sponsors because they don't want to turn the event into a competition, said Westmoreland, senior vice president for wealth management at Charlotte's MorganStanley SmithBarney.

"This is basically to raise awareness for our children -- about mission work, about Baptist Children's Homes and about how fortunate they are," he said.

This year, First Bapist is being joined by children from Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby.

That'll mean more than 50 children from two churches lapping Northside's track next month. Yet the money -- and call to help -- will already have been raised.

Want to help? First Baptist's children aren't actively pursuing contributions, but if you'd like to send one, they'll certainly send it on to Baptist Children's Homes. Write a check to First Baptist Church, with "Bike for Change" in the memo, and mail it to: First Baptist Church, 301 S. Davidson St., Charlotte NC 28202. Or click here and then click on "Bike for Change."