Reaching out to those in need

Members of King's Way Baptist Church in Concord have traded their 10-year Christmas dramatic musical tradition for something with more impact.

"Instead of putting on something that's a depiction of a good thing, we want to actually do a good thing," said Randy Price, the church's business administrator and director of creative arts. "The pastor had been preaching a series on church without walls, and it just sort of made sense. With the way society is, we just thought, 'Why not get the church out of the building?'"

Price, 44, earned a doctorate in music at UNC Greensboro and has lived in Concord for eight years. He said the "Baptist-ish" church started in 1998 with 24 members but now has more than 1,000. His father, Dr. D. Bradley, is the church pastor.

The church is partnering with local nonprofits Cabarrus Meals on Wheels, Cooperative Christian Ministry, The First Steps Ministries and the community to help those in need this holiday season. Cooperative Christian Ministry is among the nonprofits featured in The Charlotte Observer's annual Giving Guide.

Mirroring the nonprofits, church events this week will cater to people in need, as well as to those who want to give back.

The Christmas mission, "Share His Light," will peak on Sunday under what the church is calling a Community Christmas Tree. Throughout and after the 10 a.m. service, the church will distribute food and gifts to people in need. The adult and children's music departments will provide music, and the pastor will speak. "Anybody that needs anything is invited to come to our church that day," said Price. "Our church is all about meeting the needs of the people so, if you need something, show up."

People can take from under the tree or leave donations. Donations of money, food and gifts are being sought. The church has committed more than $10,000, and about a quarter of its members are volunteering for one or more causes.

To mark the year, the church's goal was to collect 2,010 canned goods or non-perishable items, distribute 2,010 gifts and raise money to provide fuel to 10 families. They've surpassed the food goal and hope to do the same with the others, said Price.

"We felt really good about the work that (the nonprofits) did, and we know they always need volunteers and money, so we organized our church to meet their needs and by extension the needs of the people they administer to," said Price. "It's about giving and meeting needs where we can."

Through its partnership with First Steps, dozens of church volunteers will offer a Christmas meal to anyone in need on 12:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at McGee Park, 219 Corban Ave., Concord. First Steps has provided meals to the homeless on weekends. "To-go" bags with personal items and emergency supplies also will be distributed.

For Meal on Wheels, the church will fund and deliver meals for more than 30 routes this week. Nearly 100 of the church members are volunteering, and it costs about $4,000 for meals, said Price.

Cooperative Christian Ministry has been involved in meeting needs in Cabarrus County and the surrounding communities since the 1980s. King's Way has donated food and given $2,000 to help families with fuel/heating costs.

Other groups within the church have taken on specific projects. "Once they get involved in it, it sort of sparks something in them where they want to do more," said Price. "So we're hoping these organizations get a lot more volunteers from our church, if not from other places, as a result of what we're doing."

Sabina Gaskey and her husband, Darrell, are volunteer with the effort. They live in Concord with their children, Isabella and Constantine.

Sabina, originally from Romania, has lived in the United States for 16 years, and she became a citizen this year. She and her brother fought in her country's revolution in 1989, she said, and soon after, she came to the United States to go to school. She received a bachelor's in civil engineering in 1998 at UNC Charlotte, where she met Darrell.

Sabina said she can relate to those who are in need. Her mother made soup from bones, and the soup would have to last for days. Sabina did homework by candlelight. Her family often wore coats inside because they had no heat through winter. "God has blessed me with so much after coming to America, and I have to give back," she said. Other church members are helping too. Christy Bell and Jo Bosco recently took boxes of food, fresh fruit and candy to about 70 families throughout Cabarrus County.

Bell, a Concord resident for 25 years, and Bosco, a single mom from Concord, have worked at the King's Keep Learning Center in Concord for about five years.

"I love trying to help people," said Bell in an e-mail. "After seeing so many needs, I really appreciated much more what I have. Several of the families had small children with hardly any toys or even food."