Once, Boone County, W. Va., was a leading producer of coal nationally. The industry has suffered a major decline in recent years with the closure of all but one of its coal mines.
“We faced a situation where parents no longer had jobs relating to the mining industry,” explains Theresa A. Cocheran, a retired school teacher who has served as a leader for Madison Baptist Church in Madison, W. Va., working with other leaders like Michele Linville and Connie Brammer to form an initiative called “Power of Three: Body, Mind and Soul.”
The initiative has received a $2,100 Matthew 25 Grant from American Baptist Churches USA to help children and their families recover from a devastating economic time.
“We faced a time where schools were being consolidated and buildings were closing,” Cocheran explains. “Nearly one-third of our teachers became unemployed. Every family was impacted negatively – economically, socially and mentally, and the drug epidemic escalated.”
“As a former teacher I know about the research that shows families with low incomes have homes lacking a text-rich environment,” Cocheran says. “Also, children from poverty enter school with a language gap compared to those from professional families, and such families have a lack of positive parent/child interactions and a lack of affirmation that negatively impacts children’s educations and futures.”
“Our hope is that the youngest victims of poverty will have healthier lives through this program, be able to access a better education and social engagement and eventually a better future because of increased vocabulary and more positive involvement with reading and parent/child interactions,” Cocheran adds. “Grandparents as well as great-grandparents are involved in the initiative and they appreciate the extra items we provide for use with the children.”
The Matthew 25 Grant was the second received by Madison Baptist Church. An earlier grant made it possible for the church to reach out to economically challenged elementary and secondary students throughout the county by providing winter jackets, hoods, mittens and boots for two years. The most recent Grant enabled the purchase of 35 two-year subscriptions of reading materials for low-income/poverty families with children aged three and younger. Additional children’s books for use in community homes were also purchased.
The Power of Three outreach was an outgrowth of work by a 2015 mission committee at Madison Church that worked on outreach ideas. The congregation already operated a food pantry which remains a central component for the new initiative. In 2016 a local non-profit approached the church regarding the need for physical space and volunteers to operate a diaper/formula pantry for which it had received a one-year grant. The need proved greater than the original grant made possible, and so the congregation found ways to continue the pantry by calling on parishioners for additional support. In addition to the Matthew 25 grants, The Power of Three outreach has also received funding from the United Way of Central West Virginia and the Boone County Community Foundation Fund.
“Madison Baptist Church has a real heart for the community and for sharing the love of Christ by reaching out to others,” Cocheran says. “We are so grateful for the Matthew 25 Grant that helps to make our outreach possible to people in need.”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/