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Allegheny East Church Plants Love at Public School

Story by Taashi Rowe
Published 8/14/2013

Baldwin Williams, Pastor Brenda Billingy and Pastor Marquis Johns flank two elementary students as they install a vegetable garden.

It’s a hot Thursday afternoon and Brenda Billingy and Marquis Johns, pastors at Allegheny East Conference’s Metropolitan church in Hyattsville, Md., are kneeling in front of a garden box with second-graders at a local public elementary school. All are listening closely as Baldwin Williams, a Metropolitan member, shows them how to plant peppers, collard greens and strawberries.
Seeing one little boy’s excitement after transplanting tomatoes into the planter box is an answer to prayer for Denise Dunn, who, for the past year, has served as the school’s principal. “Some 90 percent of our students get free or reduced lunch,” she says. “I wanted to have a school garden so we can teach parents and students how to eat healthy and give them access to food over the summer months when school is not in session.”
The garden came as a result of providence. The Metropolitan church campus, which includes their own George E. Peters Adventist School, has been located across from the Ridgecrest public elementary school for many years. Last year one member reached out to the school just when they were looking for speakers to attend career day. She told them the church was looking for ways to embrace the community. “Embrace us,” Dunn recalls saying.
And that is what Metropolitan members are doing. Over the past few months, they have circled the school and prayed; held a clothing drive; invited parents to make use of the church’s food pantry and started the school’s garden with eight boxes. That’s not all. The church also launched an English as a Second Language classes.
Dunn remembers how excited the parents were when they received clothes from church members. “The clothes and shoes were brand new,” she said. “We were not used to receiving new [items] and they were so beautifully packed with loving kindness.”
Billingy, Metropolitan’s senior pastor, is thrilled that the Ridgecrest community can feel Christ’s love through them. “This feels better than regular evangelism as we are really touching the community now and that is what Jesus would have us do” she says. Another added bonus is that the church’s young people are fully supporting and backing this partnership with the school.

Denise Dunn, (back in black blouse), principal of the Ridgecrest elementary school, is overjoyed to have a garden at the school.

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