City News

Charlotte Church collecting 50,000 books for South African kids

From left, Andrea Betaudier, Debra Smith, Donna Stoeling and Yvette Butler work with the ICOM Books for Freedom project at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.
From left, Andrea Betaudier, Debra Smith, Donna Stoeling and Yvette Butler work with the ICOM Books for Freedom project at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. CHARLENE PRICE-PATTERSON

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte has launched a multiyear mission called ICOM Books for Freedom with the goal of collecting 50,000 textbooks for schoolchildren in South Africa.

New or used Kindles also are welcome, and financial donations are needed to purchase tablets and to help with shipping.

The plan was launched in 2014, and the church hopes to reach its goal by April 2016.

Over the past 16 years, Friendship Missionary Baptist has worked with children and adults in South Africa through the church’s International Children’s Outreach Ministry. The ministry gives South African children an opportunity to spend summers with church families.

In some cases, the visiting child and host family form lasting bonds. Some of the children in the program now attend institutions of higher learning in the United States.

“Several church families have invested in the education of the children,” said ICOM Chairwoman Debra Smith.

After six summers and five years with their South African student, Nicole, the Smith family has made it possible for her to attend Johnson C. Smith University.

“Over the past 16 years, ICOM has also helped with school supplies, helped an orphanage, focused on mental-health issues and much more,” Smith said.

Andrea Betaudier is Friendship’s staff coordinator for the project and will take calls and handle logistics for the project.

“Mission and education of children is part of my DNA,” Betaudier said. “It’s been a blessing watching the children grow.”

Others involved with ICOM also say its efforts have changed lives.

“This ministry has done quite a bit, and we have had a huge impact,” said Donna Stoeling, ICOM secretary and chairwoman for the book-collection project.

After five summers with Stoeling, Stoeling’s South African student, named Blessings, now attends Central Piedmont Community College.

In an effort to help even more children, Friendship partnered with the Tshwane North District of Gauteng Province, in South Africa, and the Baptist Convention College in Wibsey, South Africa, to create ICOM Books for Freedom.

Fliers for the project include a quote from Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” The fliers ask potential donors “to honor the legacy of freedom left by President Nelson Mandela, by donating to the ones he treasured most, the children of South Africa.”

The church is seeking textbooks for grades eight through 12 in the following areas: English, mathematics, physical science, chemistry, accounting, business studies and geography. The group also is seeking life-skills reference books, but not encyclopedias.

“The school district includes about 154 schools including three farm schools,” Stoeling said. “Some of the South African classrooms have 50 students. The farm schools may have (several) grade levels in one classroom, with about 80 students.”

She said two libraries also will use the books for high school students.

“We really hope that organizations in our community as well as the general public will help with this effort… we would really appreciate it,” she said.

Charlene Price-Patterson is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Charlene? Email her at

Want to help?

The International Children’s Outreach Ministry Books for Freedom drive is led by Friendship Missionary Baptist Church at 3400 Beatties Ford Road.

Textbooks are needed for grades eight-12 (English, mathematics, physical science, chemistry, accounting, business studies, geography and life-skills reference books (no encyclopedias). Kindles also are requested. Cash donations also may be made to help purchase tablets and pay shipping charges.

Items can be shipped to: Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, c/o International Children’s Outreach Ministry Inc., 3400 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, NC 28216.

Details: Andrea Betaudier, 704-391-3864.