THOMAS COUNTY -- The spirit at Circle C is growing.
About 100 ramshackle trailers line the narrow streets that wind through the Circle C mobile home park on Summerhill Road. The roadsides there are dotted with litter and castaways belonging to tenants who lived there for six months or so before moving on. Many of the trailers contain single-parent families who are barely surviving on income earned from one or more minimum-wage jobs.
Just a few years ago, the mood of the quiet neighborhood was different. Where children once smashed out windows for lack of other entertainment, many now have a different way of looking at life and hope for a brighter future. This transformation is owed at least in part to The Chapel at Circle C, a Gatlin Creek Baptist Church outreach program founded in 1999 with help from Gatlin Creek and the Thomas County Baptist Association.
Bruce Myers, the director of the Thomasville-Thomas County Habitat for Humanity and a member of Gatlin Creek Baptist Church who volunteers at The Chapel at Circle C, said the chapel got its start out of need. Circle C residents, he said, are turned off to red-bricked and white-columned churches whose members wear expensive clothes and drive late-model cars.
"As you look around, there's a lot of pain and suffering here," said Myers of Circle C residents. "The children needed some kind of ministry...So, we are bringing the gospel to the people."
About 15 volunteers provide a variety of activities for youngsters and adults including Sunday School classes for children and teens every Sunday morning, Bible study classes throughout the week and music and golf ministries.
Up until now, most of the lessons have been taught in a single-wide trailer that's decorated with photographs of the children and a piece of neon green poster board upon which is written the Ten Commandments. When the trailer isn't bustling with activity, it contains just a piano, chairs and a stack of Bibles and workbooks. During services, said Myers, it's bursting at the seams.
Bigger digs have finally been found in the form of a much larger modular classroom purchased for $1 from the Roswell School System in Atlanta. Gatlin Creek Baptist Church and the Thomas County Baptist Association funded its move south.
"This is really exciting," said Myers of the new building that needs a new roof, a new paint job and new skirting. The space will start being used in about two months.
The larger building will allow for regular services for adults and children and expanded Sunday School offerings. Myers said afternoon tutoring programs will be held there as well and that computers will be installed so children can learn how to use them.
Between 25 and 50 children currently attend Sunday morning services, said Ben Teo, a former Circle C resident who is a member of Gatlin Creek and volunteers at Circle C. To drum up interest among a constantly-changing pool of residents, he said, volunteers go door to door each week. Shuttle service also is provided for former residents. The van runs from Boston to Villa North Apartments, said Ben Teo, a driver. He and his son, Oki Teo, lived in Circle C for about two years and continue to touch the lives of those who still reside there through the chapel. Oki Teo, 15, acts as a sort of youth minister, said Myers. His dad teaches classes.
Myers, the Teos and volunteer minister Roy Young walked around the mobile home park Tuesday and paid house calls to several families they have come to know through their work there. Alonza Gaskins, also 15, is one of the teens who attends Sunday School classes. The Thomas County Central High School freshman and football team member has been living at the park since 1999. He said the Chapel at Circle C is more than a church. It's a family that can be called on when the electricity is getting ready to be turned off or when tutoring help or a ride to football practice is needed. His interactions with chapel volunteers have helped him with more than his math skills, though. They have helped him temper his temper, he said.
"Now I don't break out like I used to," he said. "I got back in sync with Christ."
Veterinarian Jimmy Clanton and city and county school superintendents Dr. Jim Cable and Larry Green are among the guest speakers who have visited classes and talked to the children. Not only do they bring the gospel to the children, said Myers, but they also stress the importance of education to youngsters such as Latrell Batten, a cute and curious 4-year-old who lives in a mobile home with his great grandmother, grandmother and mother.
Batten has been attending services twice a week for about a year and was free to roam the streets of Circle C with Myers and the others on Tuesday. He played with Oki Teo as if they were brothers and is one more person at Circle C whose life will be touched by the volunteers who have donated countless hours to bolster the spiritual lives of Circle C inhabitants and to make the park a better place to live.
"Latrell will be part of this ministry," said Myers. "And we'll help raise Latrell."
Call Myers at 224-1120 to volunteer time or donate funds to The Chapel at Circle C.
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