Rock Hill church seeks book donations to stem violence

Pastor C.T. Kirk had his own “bump up with the law” as a young man, serving weekend jail time on a misdemeanor charge after a fight.

Kirk recalled a man who pastored an inmate group and told him that jail “was not where I wanted to be.” The man took Kirk to a jail library and encouraged him to read.

Kirk, a 36-year-old father of three, Lancaster County fifth-grade teacher and pastor of Sanctuary of Life Outreach Center in Rock Hill, says books can help prevent gun violence.

For its second consecutive year, Kirk’s nondenominational church on Albright Road in Rock Hill islaunching a book drive to provide summer reading material for children ages 3 to 12. Last year the church collected and distributed 5,000 books, he said. This year, their goal is 10,000 books.

“Instead of seeing children dying in our community as a result of gun violence, we as a community need to put books in their hands,” Kirk said, days after two 17-year-old Rock Hill teens died in separate gun incidents in Rock Hill and York.

Church members last year distributed the books through day care centers, summer programs and school districts in Rock Hill, Chester, Lancaster and Fort Mill. They also gave out books by going door to door in neighborhoods, he said.

He said the church has already collected about 500 mostly used books for this year’s drive. The church also purchased some books, he said.

Kirk said he decided to become a teacher after substitute teaching several years ago in Chester County. He asked the children what they aspired to do with their lives.

One boy “told me he wanted to be a drug dealer, because that’s what he saw,” Kirk said. “He said they’ve got nice cars. That’s what he saw as success.”

Kirk, a graduate of Rock Hill High, said he decided to get his teaching degree “because I wanted to be a role model for the kids in the classroom.”

Kirk, a student teacher last year at York Preparatory Academy, said he has learned how children fall behind with reading skills in the summer if they don’t read.

“Especially among African-American boys,” Kirk said. “Most of them don’t read in the summer. They play video games or they do outside activities, but not reading.”

His wife, Monique Kirk, a reading coach, said children who don’t read during the summer can lose two to three reading levels, or about 1.5 years of skills.

“I don’t think that a lot of parents realize that happens,” Kirk said. “It’s so important to keep our children’s skills sharp. We all know the impact of reading.”

Kirk said the group plans a 6 p.m. June 4 kickoff event at the field near the Workman Street Apartments, where some of the books will be distributed.

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077

Want to help?

Sanctuary of Life Outreach Center, 213 Albright Road, Rock Hill, is collecting books for children ages 3 to 12 to provide them with summer reading material.

To donate, call Pastor C.T. Kirk at 803-524-5925 or email him at the church at solocenter@aol.com; Kirk said he will pick up donated books. Books also can be brought to the church from noon to 2 p.m. Sundays and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays.