Churches and schools join forces to improve Wichita Falls communities

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Several leaders have joined forces to help Kirby, Hirschi High and Kate Burgess Elementary in hopes of bettering the schools as well as their surrounding areas. Pastors and school staff members are launching Operation Fresh Start, an initiative that will include school fundraising and neighborhood revitalization.

In November, athletic staff at Hirschi High reached out to Angus Thompson, pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church. They asked for help with raising funds for new equipment in their weight room. Thompson agreed, so long as the school also gave back to the community.

So, what started out as a fundraiser for sports has turned into a community project.

Operation Fresh Start will first host a musical fundraiser at New Jerusalem Baptist Church on Saturday, April 14. The program will include school choirs, community leaders, and pastors from various churches. The proceeds will go to Hirschi and Kirby's weight room, a facility both schools share.

From there they will launch a neighborhood development plan. On May 12, churches, businesses and schools will have a community "clean-up-and-fix-up". This will include picking up trash, painting houses, and beatifying the surrounding areas of the school as well as Lynwood West and East. The City of Wichita Falls has issued a proclamation that April 14 is the official launch pf Operation Fresh Start. They have also agreed to provide additional dumpsters to the areas included in the project.

Pastor Thompson hopes the project will enrich the youth and bring pride to the community. He said, "we think that if we help them on this end while they're young – try to get up some guidance, and some direction, and some encouragement – that they will go on and achieve to the fullest capacity."

The project is already creating a stronger bond between churches, the schools and the community as a whole. The athletic coordinator for Hirschi, Danny Youngs, said, "getting to meet leaders of our community and for our children, the adults that are parents for them, and churches around the east side and Linwood and Sunnyside – it's been great."

Kiyah Hedge and I'mani Pollard are sisters, student athletes, and singers in the church choir at New Jerusalem Baptist Church. They are looking forward to playing their part in bettering their community. Hedge said, "it makes me feel like I'm putting more effort into it because we're helping out my school and it benefits our church".

Pollard said, "you have to show a good example for your church and your school."

The musical fundraiser begins at New Jerusalem Baptist Church on April 14 at 7 pm. They hope to raise $20,000 for the schools.

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