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'Freedom in the Park' celebrated

June 26, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

There was no shortage of zeal, fervor or fellowship Saturday at the second annual Freedom in the Park. But there was also plenty of heat, humidity and burning sun.

Those last three factors kept the crowds away. But they were unable to dampen the first three factors.

"God has a plan for you to be here in 90-degree heat," said Pastor Robbie Ridenour of Faith Chapel, one of the organizers of the noon to 4 p.m. celebration in Wheaton Park on Sumans Avenue.

But later Ridenour said some thought might go into scheduling the next Freedom in the Park at a cooler time of year.

There was music, the smell and the taste of good food and most importantly, a feeling of community that prevailed.

"I wanted to bring my grandson to this event," said Carolyn Sterling. "We missed it last year, but we heard about it."

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Indeed, 7-year-old Tyler Sterling seemed to be enjoying himself as he sampled the food and indulged in the Moon Walk attraction.

Lifting up Jesus was Ridenour's goal, as his amplified voice resounded through the neighborhood, bringing people to their windows, their porches and sometimes into the park to see what all the activity was about.

The Rev. Victor Fowlkes of Gateway Ministries urged everyone to embrace God and bring Jesus into their lives now.

"We don't know when the end will come ... when our bodies will stop," Fowlkes told the crowd, which numbered about 100 people at that point. Last year's event drew about 200 people.

Nathan Valentine and his wife, Judy, formerly of New Life for Girls in Hagerstown, came to join in the day's activities at the park.

New Life for Girls, which had operated a shelter for women trying to beat their drug addictions, is continuing its work at the organization's Westminster, Md., headquarters.

"Nathan and I are still in the Hagerstown community doing God's work," Judy Valentine said.

There were hot dogs, plenty of cool drinks and lots of man-made shade, all free to those who attended.

The food was purchased from Gibble's of Greencastle, Pa., by a number of churches sponsoring the event together.

They included Tribe of Judah, Faith Chapel, Prison Ministries and Faith, Hope and Charities. Salvation Army provided the Moon Walk for the children.

Also in attendance were representatives of the Hagerstown Fire Department and Community Rescue Service.

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