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Outreach breathes new life into congregation

"If something happened and Fletcher's Chapel had to close, lots of people would be very sad," said the Rev. Kris Williams, the pastor appointed to the church in 2013. That was not the case a few years ago.

Finding itself aging and out of touch with its neighborhood, the 250-member church in Durham, N.C., decided to open its doors to area children and reach out to the local elementary school.

The church's outreach to Merrick-Moore Elementary is resonating with the community, church and school leaders say.

Longtime Fletcher's Chapel member Robin Sorrell said volunteering has the congregation "revved up." Many who cannot volunteer at the school donate food or money.

Attendance at Fletcher's Chapel is slowly building and becoming more racially diverse, Williams said. Record numbers are showing up for Wednesday night dinner service and festivals, due to the church's outreach. The number of students playing basketball at the church's outdoor courts and attending youth group has tripled.

Eight members of Fletcher's Chapel volunteer at Merrick-Moore each week. They help teach kindergarten and work in the library.

"They have been a blessing to our school," said guidance counselor Anissa Hicklen. Merrick-Moore is located in a low-income neighborhood. The extra attention kindergarteners receive in learning to read, spell and count makes a big difference in their education, Hicklen said.

Fletcher's Chapel provides backpacks filled with snacks that children take home at the end of the week to ensure food to eat over the weekend, adopts a student's family at Christmas and has furnished thousands of books and classroom supplies.

Sorrell volunteers in a Merrick-Moore kindergarten class.

"It just lifts my spirits seeing the little children learn and grow," she said. "It fulfills something in me."

Erin Edgemon is a freelance writer in Montgomery, Ala.

AT A GLANCE Fletcher's Chapel United Methodist Church | 1919 Fletcher's Chapel Road, Durham, NC 27703 | [email protected] | | Pastor: The Rev. Kristen D. Williams | Attendance: 69 | North Carolina Conference

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