BY Win Dolan

Highlights of Our Story  First Baptist Church: 1867-2007
A year long series originally printed in the Tidings (article #10)

One indication of a church’s effectiveness is surely what it offers to make its community a better place.  One clause of our stated mission is “To Grow in Service.”  Here are three examples of notable services that FBC has offered—all of them in the past, if that carries any significance.

Each of the three was the outcome of someone’s persistence. About 1950, Mrs. Letha Wakeman, former missionary to the Congo, began a ministry at Eola Village, a large early camp for migrant workers, built by the federal government. Mrs. Wakeman organized child care, mothers’ groups, craft classes and Vacation Bible School; she enlisted FBC women to help in many ways for several years.  The benefits of this program, which continued in one form or another into the ‘70s, were quite beyond measure.

In 1965 the Toy Box Day Care Center opened in the newly built west educational wing of the church.  Under the initial organization and direction of Evangeline Smith, Toy Box offered a safe, state-licensed facility for small children of employed parents, with appropriate activities and lunches, supervised by a qualified staff. The program continued for 25 years under several directors. It was finally discontinued because fees could not cover expenses, and the church, rightly or wrongly, could not justify the long-term subsidy needed.

About 1970, Celia Dromgoole of this church suggested developing a lunch program for adults of the community. Under Celia’s urging, a committee from several churches studied this fairly novel idea, and eventually began lunch service three times a week at the Presbyterian Church, under the name Pioneer Pantry. Later it moved to the basement of our church and expanded to participation of as many as eleven churches which supplied volunteers for food preparation and service, and in some cases contributions to the budget. There were two paid cooks, and volunteer drivers to carry meals to shut-ins. Self-supporting through modest meal charges, Pioneer Pantry continued until 1995, when the city Senior Center opened and offered lunches five days.

Our church has had a part in several other ecumenical activities, often providing significant leadership, for example: Habitat for Humanity with the building of many homes; the exchange with St. James Catholic Church at Ash Wednesday and Pentecost; various combined choir for special concerts; the notable Mexico Missions with youth from several churches; the Logos Youth program, and probably others not mentioned here.