Petal First Baptist helps students with uniforms, clothingBy HASKEL BURNS,
A few years ago, Petal First Baptist Church partnered with Petal Primary School to help provide food backpacks to children.
It wasn’t much longer after that when church officials decided they wanted to offer a little more for school kids in the Petal School District, and began giving out uniforms, tennis shoes, underwear, socks, belts and backpacks to children in kindergarten through 6th grade. That, in turn, led to the Petal Children’s Task force asking the church to take the lead on distributing the school uniforms the task force had been giving out.
And the church has been doing it ever since, using its uniform closet to help needy families in the school district procure uniforms for the coming school year.
“We prayed about it, and agreed to do that, so now we’re kind of the go-to for uniforms for the district for those who need school uniforms,” said Brad Eubank, senior pastor at Petal First Baptist. “(Several years ago), I met a little boy who had on a pair of his sister’s old shoes that didn’t have any tongues and the shoelaces were a mess, so I bought him a new pair of shoes.
“So then we started seeing kids who didn’t have on clean socks or didn’t have a belt, or didn’t have a uniform that was clean. So it just kind of morphed from there. We want to let families know that we really care about them … and long-term, get people to Jesus.”
This year, families are asked to wait until Aug. 3 to claim uniforms, when church officials will partner with the Coleman Center for Families and Children to host the annual Petal Back-to-School Health & Wellness Fair. The fair will be held from noon-6 p.m. at the church and will offer free vision, hearing, dental and speech screenings.
“We can do it before that point if people just can’t make it that day, but we’ll just have more manpower available (at the event),” Eubank said. “It’s the ‘Meet the Teacher Day’ for the school district, so we just kind of connected all those events together.
“We’ll specifically target the Pre-K through 6th grade, and we’ll take information that day and let them fill out stuff for those that are in middle school and high school – for the bigger sizes, basically. And then they’ll be able to come back (Aug. 6) before school starts and get those uniforms.”
After Aug. 3, uniforms will be available at the church throughout the school year from 2-4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The uniform closet is open only to students and families in the Petal School District, and students are allowed to try on the uniforms before they leave.
“(Giving out uniforms) happens all school year – for example, we’ll have students who move in the district who need (the uniforms), or their financial situation changes and they’re unable to get uniforms,” Eubank said. “We try our best to try to help them.
“We come in and we spend time talking with them, we pray with each family and try to encourage them. We give them enough uniforms for a week, so they don’t have to wash clothes during the week because nobody likes to do that.”
Most of the uniforms come from community donations and uniform drives held earlier in the year. In addition to uniforms, the church also gives out Petal school T-shirts – which students are allowed to wear to school on Fridays – T-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts.
“We do our best to give as much of it away as we possibly can,” Eubank said. “We want to give it away to kids and families who need it, because it’s expensive.
“And we don’t give out uniforms that have holes or stains in them – we cull through all that and make sure we give the kids the best that they can have.”
For more information on Petal First Baptist Church’s uniform closet, call (601) 545-3198.