MOULTRIE — In the midst of a shrinking economy and poverty levels as a concern, one church is reaching out to support the future by adopting an elementary school for the year.

First Baptist Church in Moultrie has “adopted” Stringfellow Elementary School for the 2008-09 school year. Volunteers from the church will assist teachers and administrators by “adopting classrooms,” serving as mentors, and acting as guides for the students on the first day of school.

On Friday, First Baptist held a breakfast for staff of Stringfellow as a kick-off to the partnership and also presented them with gift bags.

Sam Stephens, who is spearheading the project, said the idea evolved when Shannon Hall, mentor coordinator for Communities In Schools, made a presentation about mentoring to the Keenagers group at First Baptist last year.

“Several of us got together and talked about the possibilities,” he said.

He also said that Brian Blackburn, interim pastor at First Baptist and director of the Georgia Baptist Conference Center, had told him about how some of his employees mentored at Norman Park Elementary last year. He said he had also heard about some things that First Presbyterian in Moultrie were doing and it gave them inspiration, as well.

“They are doing some great things over there,” Stephens said.

He said they went to their missions committee and they said “go for it.”

“We just jumped in there and started running real fast. The timing seemed to be just rightt ... We are also right here close by and thought we should be a supporter of this school. Hopefully the project will grow over the years,” he said.

Communities In Schools will act as the communication partner between the two organizations and assist the church in coordinating the volunteers and be a resource. Hall, who attended the breakfast, said that over 20 people from the church are interested in volunteering and would even be assisting in building the new outdoor classroom that will be made possible through a grant from Lowe’s.

“We’re just excited that this initiative has happened with the First Baptist Church, and we are looking forward to working with them,” said Darlene Reynolds, principal of Stringfellow

She said that David Chastain, assistant principal at Stringfellow, would, along with Stephens, act as liaison between the school and the church.

Superintendent Leonard McCoy told the group that until the faith community got aggressively involved with the children in the community, he did not think the community could move forward. He believed the faith community’s involvement would really maximize the student’s benefits.

“This is just a wonderful opportunity...To start an initiative that will spread across our community,” he said.

He thanked First Baptist Church on behalf of the school system and Stringfellow Elementary School and said he could not tell them enough how much he appreciated what they were doing.

Reynolds said she looked forward to the partnership with the church.

“I am so glad it was able to get started this year because the children deserve the very best,” she said.

She said she was glad that they had “stepped out on faith” to help the children at Stringfellow.

Other organizations interested in adopting a school can contact Communities In Schools at 985-9577.

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