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City Council recognizes church-related youth programs

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Salisbury City Council recently recognized two church-related programs seen as positive initiatives for youth in the city.
Dr. Shirley Ritchie and the Rev. Jennifer Ginn of St. John’s Lutheran Church updated the council on the second year of the Barnabas Connection, a mentoring program which focuses on art instruction as a way to encourage self-expression and build self esteem with at-risk youth.
The church works with the Rowan Youth Services Bureau and the arts community in providing the program. So far, there have been two summer programs and two semester-long, after-school programs on Thursday afternoons.
The artwork has involved, for example, pottery, stained glass, watercolor, print-making and memory books.
A dozen children are usually in each session. Mentors come from inside and outside the church and do not have to have any experience with art.
Ginn and Ritchie stressed that the program is considered “group mentoring” with lots of backup support for the adults. Ritchie said it often seems that the adults gain as much or more from the program as the students, who give it high marks.
Barnabas was a New Testament “encourager,” Ginn said, explaining the program’s name.
The next Barnabas Connection session will begin Sept. 25. Each Thursday the program runs from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and mentors are still needed, Ginn said. People interested should call Ginn at 704-636-3431.
The Rowan One Church-One Child support ministry, a partnership between the Rowan County Department of Social Services and county churches, provides placement support for foster parents.
Since its establishment in November 2006, 31 churches have become involved in providing foster families with food, clothing, furniture and additional items such as bicycles, school supplies, birthday and Christmas parties and summer camps. It also helps the DSS in recruiting foster families and parents looking to adopt.
One Church-One Child was among eight programs in the country cited for “Best Practices” at the recent annual conference of the National Network of Adoption Advocacy Programs in Richmond, Va.
Jon Hunter, foster care and adoption recruiter and trainer, said the program also has an educational component for participating churches, which sponsor at least one program a year on foster care or adoption to keep the message in front of their congregations.
The program has received 187 donations since it began, and churches have been able to sponsor 225 children at Christmas.
A 17-member advisory board with 10 DSS members and seven from churches meets quarterly.
The Rev. Nilous Avery, pastor of one of the charter member churches, said the ministry offers foster children an opportunity “to enjoy life the way it should be enjoyed.”

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