ST. PETERSBURG — New Hope Missionary Baptist Church will be one of more than 70 organizations participating in St. Pete’s 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service next month, which is a way to transform Dr. King’s life and teachings into community service that helps empower and strengthen local communities.
New Hope’s project is aimed at helping homeless residents and those young adults who have aged out of Florida’s foster care system.
“This project aligns to our church’s goals for the community,” said Christopher Graham, New Hope’s executive pastor and project leader. “We want to demonstrate how much a small gesture can help people in need.”
Titled Hope for the Homeless, the church will get some needed assistance from two local organizations, Ready For Life, Inc. and St. Vincent de Paul. Ready for Life, Inc. aids former foster care youth ages 18-24, and St. Vincent de Paul helps provide food and shelter for the city’s homeless residents.
The project’s first phase starts Jan. 7 with an employment workshop at the church for a group of former foster care youths. The workshop will focus on helping them with job searches, resume writing, mock interviews, proper job interview attire and budget handling, which Graham describes as “the backbone” of the workshop.
“We will give them the life skills needed to take care of themselves,” said Graham, stating that having these skills will help stave off homelessness.
Jan. 16, the team will stop by St. Vincent de Paul, located at 384 15th St. N, to give out bags of nonperishable food and hygiene products to the homeless. Graham will also take this opportunity to speak with some of the itinerant on the importance of MLK Day.
“There was much influenced by Dr. King,” said Graham, mentioning King’s support for affirmative action, which gives equal opportunities for people for each gender and color in education and the workplace.
Being first time applicants, the church came up with a few different project ideas, such as building a children’s playground or taking St. Pete youths to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C., but ultimately decided on helping to alleviate homelessness.
Although this is the first time they’ve received a MLK Day of Service grant, New Hope is no stranger to serving their community. This year alone they held a block party for area residents, and dispatched congregation members with 100 gift baskets full of food and supplies to the neighborhood surrounding the church.
Each neighbor was asked what could the 103-year-old church do to help improve their lives, and many of the ideas they received have been implemented.
“We were looking to get ideas from them how we can better serve our community,” he said. “We definitely want to be able to meet needs.”
The church has 20 members joining in on the project with more expected in the coming weeks. Anyone interested in volunteering can call New Hope’s main number at (727) 896-5228.