To find out more about FirstWorks, to donate, or volunteer, please visit: www.firstworks.org
To find out more about FirstWorks, to donate, or volunteer, please visit: www.firstworks.org
“Everyone can be great…because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The youth enrolled in the FirstWorks After-School Program learned the value of service and the importance of giving back this Thanksgiving.
They were invited by Executive Director, Frederick Cunningham, to help serve dinner on Wednesday November 23, in the large fellowship hall at Highland Heights United Methodist.
The hall was packed with hungry families who attended the “Jacob’s Well” outreach program, housed at the church. The kitchen was filled with volunteers arranging an abundance of food as they formed an assembly line to feed several hundred citizens who came to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.
Cunningham, who mentored FirstWorks youth, Keyonte Morris-Loper, 13 years old, showed him how to wear plastic gloves and where to stand when serving. He also taught him a very valuable life lesson.
“I believe,” said Cunningham, “it is important that the children at FirstWorks are taught moral values. It is vital they learn that even though they don’t have a lot of material possessions and many of them come from near-poverty themselves, that whatever our circumstances, we all must give back. Generosity and kindness are not hereditary – it is learned behavior that must be taught. Inviting them to help serve this Thanksgiving dinner helped to teach them the importance of giving back.”
FirstWorks, Inc., a 501 c 3 mission, is an after-school academic program for at-risk children and youth living in the zip codes surrounding the intersection of Highland and Summer Avenue. The program meets twice a week for dinner, tutoring, life skills enhancement, and career advice. Twice monthly, the children are treated to Saturday outings to visit museums, go skating or fishing, or attend ball games.
As the children enrolled in the FirstWorks After-School Program eagerly jumped off the bus transporting them to Highland Heights United Methodist Church, they were greeted with smiles, hugs, and the welcoming aroma of a home-cooked meal.
Members of the Germantown United Methodist Church Horizon Sunday school class were the “Kitchen Angels” for the evening. They had lovingly prepared a delicious meal of salad, beans, barbecue sandwiches and cookies for the children, the FirstWorks staff, volunteers, and tutors.
Serving a meal for 60 children and adults can be daunting. But they quickly formed an assembly line and efficiently fed everyone in record time – as well as those who came back for seconds! Everyone enjoyed the meal and the warm fellowship provided by these visiting Kitchen Angels.
Once a year this devoted Sunday school group serves dinner for the FirstWorks children as part of their missions project. Jan Davis, Horizon mission leader, commented on their visit, “Oh, we so enjoy helping this wonderful children’s program by coming out to serve dinner for them!” Serving FirstWorks is just one of the missions of this motived Sunday school group. They perform a different mission every month.
FirstWorks, Inc., a 501 c 3 mission, is an after-school academic program for at-risk children and youth under the direction of Frederick Cunningham, Executive Director. The program meets twice a week for dinner, tutoring, life skills enhancement, and career advice. Twice monthly, the children are treated to Saturday outings to visit museums, go skating or fishing, or attend ball games.
To find out more about FirstWorks, to volunteer, or donate, please visit:
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, the large white school bus with the bright green “FirstWorks” logo makes it rounds to the homes of 40 families surrounding Highland Heights United Methodist Church. The children and youth excitedly jump on the bus to be transported to a very special after-school academic program housed at the church.
A 501 c 3 mission, FirstWorks, under the leadership of Frederick Cunningham, the agency’s new Executive Director, welcomes at-risk children to be tutored and guided by caring professionals and volunteers.
Upon arrival, the children are greeted with hugs and smiles from Cunningham, the volunteer tutors, and teachers awaiting them. The “Kitchen Angels,” volunteers who contribute and serve dinner to the children, have prepared a healthy, delicious dinner.
After dinner, the children are guided to their classrooms for study time and homework assistance on Tuesday nights and on Thursdays the children are encouraged to express their artistic side with crafts and music projects. Guest speakers visit on occasion to inspire and advise them on sound career choices and life skill issues.
This year the program’s theme focuses on the “whole child”, their present, and their hopeful futures.
Cunningham explains FirstWorks’ aim, “We are so excited! We are planning a change in direction in that we have enrolled children from this neighborhood – near the church. That is our target population. These children, many who live in poverty, come from uncertain backgrounds and face many obstacles to creating a certain future. Every day they are tempted with drugs and crime due to lack of supervision, and a lack of guidance. We have tried to “walk in their shoes” to see what we can do as an after-school program to help them graduate to the next step in life. Our long term goals include guiding each child to college or trade school. Academics, life skills, and self esteem are the areas we concentrate on with these children.”
Further down the road, FirstWorks plans to become a model for other non-profit children’s programs. Cunningham stated he foresees planting satellite locations of FirstWorks throughout the county.
Among the many activities planned for the children include a “girls night out” to help the female children bond with their mothers and female members of their families. They will be invited to the church to have their hair styled and given fashion advice. They will be encouraged to discuss female issues with teachers and other role models. The male children will also have a “boys night out” to bond with the male members of their families with a visiting barber to style hair and enjoy a pizza dinner. The children also enjoy twice a month outings on Saturdays when the bus takes them to educational and sports outings such as the Children’s Museum, fishing, or skating.
FirstWorks, Inc., in its 25th year, was founded at downtown’s First United Methodist Church by the Rev. Thomas Wilson to support at-risk children and youth. The program was originally named “Final Net.”
A few weeks ago, in Midtown Memphis all eyes were focused on Union Avenue United Methodist Church.
The once majestic building with the unique round-domed sanctuary was now surrounded by a chain-link fence littered with protest signs. Despite months of controversy, lawsuits, and disagreements over the sale of the building, the fight was finally over.
Its small, but dedicated, congregation, lead by Rev. Birgitte T. French, had struggled financially for many years to keep the building in good repair. However, despite their best efforts, they made the practical decision to merge with the congregation of St. Luke’s United Methodist and sell the building to CVS Pharmacy.
Meanwhile, just as the wrecking ball began to methodically knock down the walls of of the church, a small group had gathered across town at St. Luke’s United Methodist for a celebration of sorts.
While they were sad that Union Avenue UMC would soon be gone, the former congregation was thrilled to be donating proceeds from the sale to several worthwhile ministries.
Rev. Mark Matheny, St. Luke’s Senior Pastor, and Rev. Birgitte T. French, St. Luke’s Associate Pastor and former Senior Pastor at Union Avenue UMC, were delighted to present a check for $50,000 to FirstWorks! Karen Oppenheim, Chair of the FirstWorks Board of Directors, accepted the gift of behalf of the organization.
FirstWorks, an after school, academic, faith-based program, is a 501(c)3 mission that enrolls at-risk children and youth from inner-city ZIP codes. The program was housed at Union Avenue UMC before the building was sold.
Twice a week the children were brought to the church for a home-cooked meal served by volunteers, followed by tutoring, career counseling, crafts, and to listen to inspirational guest speakers. Two Saturdays a month the children are treated to educational and sports outings.
Rev. French, FirstWorks former Executive Director, said of the donation, “It was such a blessing personally to be with FirstWorks for 5 1/2 years. It is a dream come true to know this money will multiply many times over.”
Karen Oppenheim added her feelings upon receiving the check for FirstWorks, “This financial gift will benefit all of the children in our program now and for many months to come. It is also a celebration of the commitment made to FirstWorks by all of our teachers, volunteers, and supporters throughout Shelby County.”
The FirstWorks After School Program has since relocated to Highland Heights United Methodist Church, at the corner of Highland and Summer.
At the conclusion of the meeting, St. Luke’s Rev. Matheny spoke his sentiments about this holy turn of events, “We applaud FirstWorks and its commitment to reach, just like Jesus taught….the least and the last.”
At FirstWorks, “each one, teach one” is the fun way everyone learns.
Two evenings a week they meet for dinner, served by volunteers called “Kitchen Angels,” followed by tutoring by Memphis City School teachers and volunteers from all parts of Shelby County. The children are also visited by guest motivational speakers and given career advice.
Early last Saturday morning, a light dusting of snow covered the beautiful historic homes in the Annesdale Snowden HIstoric District neighborhood
as resident, Ian Randolph, drove door to door looking for grocery bags filled with non-perishable foods waiting to be picked up on his neighbors’ porches.
Randolph, who is also a Firstworks Board member, had organized this holiday food drive to benefit inner city families.
Annesdale Snowden, a Memphis landmark, has a thriving, close-knit neighborhood association of 200 homes. All had received a flyer and an email from Randolph asking them to please consider filling up the white Schnucks grocery bag he’d be leaving on their porch Friday evening.
Before 8:00 a.m. Saturday, Randolph, with the assistance of his helpful teenage daughter, Amira, excitedly began to load up their mid-size SUV with the generous gifts of non-perishable food and infant items given for those less fortunate.
Canned vegetables, meats, fruits and juices, large boxes of cereal, jars of jelly and peanut butter, infant formula, diapers, and hygiene supplies were
collected. The goods will be transported to the FirstWorks Food Pantry at Highland Heights United Methodist Church, at the corner of Summer and
Highland, for needy inner city families.
Randolph modestly said of his efforts to assist those who are struggling financially and need help putting food on their table this time of the year, “A
food drive like this is easy to do. My neighbors are generous people, with caring hearts. They want to help. All I do is make it as easy as possible by
giving them a list of what is needed ahead of time and placing an empty grocery bag on their door step. The next day I drive by and pick up their donations.”
FirstWorks, a 501(c) 3 mission, under the director of Rev. Birgitte T. French, Executive Director, operates a food pantry and an after-school academic program for “at risk” children and youth. Clients are pre-screened and referred to the food pantry by the Metropolitan InterFaith Association, churches and other helping organizations. The food pantry’s hours of operation are Tuesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., at 3476 Summer Avenue.
Any neighborhood association, business, or group that would like to organize a food drive for FirstWorks, please contact Ian Randolph at 901.289.3411. He
would be glad to help.
Special thanks to Schnucks for donating the plastic grocery bags for this event.
To find out more about FirstWorks, to donate, or volunteer, please visit: www.firstworks.org.