Culpeper Baptist Church is filled with people every Tuesday - as families converge on the venue for People and Community Together - a new initiative that emphasizes families and education in Culpeper.
Lynn Gore, PACT coordinator, said the program started Aug. 20 and it’s grown every week - with last week attracting 52 community members. It features homework help and tutoring for students, STEM activities for kids, PACTALK with a community leader for adults, GED and ESL information and other activities such as line dancing and pickleball.
On a recent Tuesday, Alex Smith, who also leads a Gospel choir monthly with the group, led a group of ladies in a line dance - laughing and smiling the whole time.
“The concept in the beginning was provide a night where families could enrichment activities,” Gore said. “The parents could come and have something valuable for them to do while the kids have homework help and other opportunities they might not have other times.”
A Soap Box Derby class is being taught by Frankie Gilmore, Soap Box Region 8 education coordinator.
Upstairs at Culpeper Baptist, a group of almost 30 Hispanic community members gather to learn English weekly.
“We’ve targeted that population somewhat because we have natural affiliations with a couple of the Spanish churches,” Gore said. “They’ve been helping us with volunteers and getting things started.”
Gore said the program is held from 5 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday night and they’ve had as many as 60 volunteers.
“The dream in a year is to have 300 people every Tuesday night to fill the building,” Gore said. “We’d like to reach out to other areas of the community and just include everybody who wants to“It’s been overwhelmingly positive, everyone who comes is just really excited about the activities they are participating in. We see the same people come back week after week and bring friends with them. The volunteers just love it.”
Community groups that help organize the event include: SAFE, Extension Office, Department of Human Services, Free Clinic of Culpeper, Culpeper County Public Schools, Wayland Blue Ridge Baptist Association, Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha, Culpeper Baptist Church, Windmore Foundation for the Arts, PRACEP and the Culpeper Literacy Council.
Amir Kalamali, owner of Horizon Food Store, volunteers helping teach sixth grade math.
“I’ve gotten a lot of love from the community and I want to give back,” Kalamali said. “I love it, I wait the whole week for this day to come. It’s like family. I miss my grandchildren, they live in Georgia, I get that missing part here.”
Eastern View High School senior Abby Stern also works with tutoring kids and said she loves the interaction with the youngsters.
“I think it’s important to have someone to look up to and someone to talk to,” Stern said. “I think it’s important to not only connect with the adults and connect with their peers and have the different fun activities and games that are enhancing their lives.”
Marilyn Dunphy helps with the English classes and says it’s joyful to see all the families come out to learn together.
“This program is a program that I see as strengthening for families and any time we can come up with creative ways to make families feel more connected to the community, I think it’s important for us to participate,” Dunphy said.
Gore said she encourages more people to join. If you’re interested, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the organization’s Facebook page.
“It’s just to have people mix with other people in the community and start to develop some relationships,” Gore said. “If you have a relationship with folks, everything in the community just works better.”