Church renovations typically change the carpet, the chairs, maybe the drapes.
This one aims to change a community.
“The big change is because of this church here,” said Liz Johnson with the Stellie J. Jackson Enrichment Center.
On Sunday, River Hills Community Church announced a $75,000 donation toward a new facility for the Clover center. It is about half the anticipated cost for a site that is more than doubling the size and capacity of the current one near Roosevelt Park. Construction could begin early next year.
Jackson Enrichment Center, named for the first African-American to serve on the Clover School Board, began when a group called Roosevelt Watch started tutoring children seven years ago. They’ve grown to include a summer program and afterschool activities four days a week for children in prekindergarten through second grade. But they are limited to 15 children, so they only offer programs to Kinard Elementary School families.
“We want to accommodate more students from more elementary schools,” said Johnson, also a Clover School Board member. “We want to implement more programs.”
Monique Boekhout serves on the missions committee at River Hills Community Church. Her group was looking for a local outreach partner, and found one near to her heart. Boekhout is the founder of the Kenya Orphanage Project offering educational and vocational training to students in that country. She and others in Lake Wylie have traveled there extensively to serve children.
Partnering with the Clover center means getting to help children with an almost incomparably shorter commute.
“We really liked what we saw, what Liz was doing,” Boekhout said. “What really was appealing is it relates to children. It was a perfect fit.”
The group also is in good standing in the community, with good accountability making the partnership more viable. The current building is a 900-square-foot former mobile home the town of Clover renovated for the enrichment center. The new one will be 2,100 square feet and serve double or more the children. It will have four classrooms, two bathrooms, a conference room and lobby.
One site near the current location is in place, and there is a possibility of adding another parcel. The site could double its space again down the road.
“We’re already building with the idea that we can expand,” Boekhout said.
A couple of years ago, the Lake Wylie church began thinking of ways it could serve the Roosevelt community in Clover, a far less affluent neighborhood. Turns out, a church renovation played a major role in bringing the communities together.
“We could live a very sheltered life out here,” said Pastor Gayle Montgomery. “You get out of your corner and you realize not everybody lives like you do.”
The church decided it would follow the biblical example of tithing, or setting aside 10 percent of income. A capital campaign began to update the decades-old facility. The main entrance opposite the highway expanded. The church set about deciding how to give back 10 percent of the money it raised for the work.
“All that we have been given is from God,” Montgomery said. “We aren’t just given stuff to have stuff.”
It began last year with a community-wide food packing event. Almost 900 people packed about 104,000 meals for others in need. This year, the sizable donation goes to the enrichment center.
“So often missions tends to be putting a Band-Aid on something,” Montgomery said. “It doesn’t have a lasting impact.”
The church vowed this one would. Montgomery said possibilities are “really limitless” from serving more children to adding cooking, parenting or other classes from the facility. Already, the local YMCA staffs the center and transports children. Volunteers come in for special presentations. The Lake Wylie church provided some musical instruments for lessons.
“The children enjoy coming,” Johnson said, recalling a recent afternoon where a group of boys gave up their outside time playing basketball to keep practicing their music. “They don’t mind being there.”
Johnson said helping children the way the center does has “always been a dream.” A dream the church hopes other churches, organizations and grant agencies can join to get the facility built. To build up a community spanning both Lake Wylie and Clover, a child and a family at a time.
“We want to use that program to motivate children,” Johnson said.