KOH2RVA: Day 266

Essex Village students with Teresa

First Baptist member Jeannie Dortch was kind enough to give me a sneak preview of this forthcoming article on the afterschool program at Essex Village Apartments, where our church has an ongoing partnership, and where one remarkable woman overcomes her disability for the sake of the children.  I hope you will read Jeannie’s article all the way to the end, and then send her an email saying you’d like to help with the summer camp at Essex Village.  If Teresa Jackson can do it, you can too!

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The Saints Go Marching AND Rolling In
by Jeannie Dortch

It was the first time I had arrived at Essex Village to tutor at-risk children in the newly formed afterschool program. Upon entering the community center, I noticed that one of the other tutors was wheelchair-bound with no use of her legs and not much of her arms or hands. I was mesmerized with her command of the children. She radiated joy, sweetness, care and knowledge, and the children responded to her with respect and obedience. I eventually learned that Teresa Jackson was a Title 1 math assistant at Laburnum Elementary. She also volunteered in this afterschool program as part of the non-profit Seeds of Promise Outreach Ministries, Inc., started by Ernestine Dockery-Roy, recently retired assistant principal at Laburnum Elementary. With the godly leadership of these two women, the meeting space has been transformed into a place where children can find safe refuge and feel Love’s warmth.

Getting to know Teresa Jackson better is something I was determined to do to learn what motivated her to work in such a mentally and physically demanding job. Visiting her at Laburnum Elementary reinforced the concept that humans are only limited by their thoughts. Teresa whizzed through the corridors in her motorized chair and explained her philosophy of teaching to me. “I’m not handicapped,” she said when asked. “I’m disabled, meaning I’m not necessarily able to work like you do, but I am able to get the job done. It may take me a little longer, but the results are the same. I love children and I want to see them succeed, and that can be done in or out of a wheelchair.”

At present, Essex Village has a population of about 544 children, all living below the poverty level. According to Steve Blanchard, FBC’s Minister of Compassion, “The needs are great, but our partnership with Essex Village is showing promise as a blessing to those who live there but even more so to the people of FBC.”

This summer, Seeds of Promise will run a summer camp from July 8th-August 1st, Monday-Thursday, 9:00-1:00 to include arts and crafts, outdoor activities, and lunch for the elementary school children in Essex Village. Then, in the fall they will begin another nine week afterschool tutoring session.

Teresa Jackson sums it up by saying, “I love to see children brighten up by what they learn. Many of the students in our program come from abusive families, and I want them to know they have teachers who care about them. Some of the kids say, ‘I can’t try no more.’ I tell them, ‘Think Can, not Can’t. I don’t use the word Can’t. Look at me! If I can, you can. I don’t pity you, nor do I want to. I am motivated by you. I want you to find something that motivates you so you too will experience God’s blessing in your lives.’”

Editors note: If you are interested in volunteering to work with Seeds of Promise at Essex Village in either the summer camp or as a tutor please contact Jeannie Dortch (dortchcamp@mindspring.com) or Sandra Millican (sandramillican1943@yahoo.com )

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