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Minister calls for community togetherness to solve problems

February 02, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A Shepherdstown-area minister called on members of the community Sunday to work together through education in eradicating poverty and other problems such as troubling school dropout rates.

The Rev. Ernest Lyles, who also announced he was stepping down as pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, made the comments at Christ Reformed Church during the 17th annual Interfaith Worship Service honoring the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Lyles said remembering King is more than taking some time to "enjoy the choir and sip on punch."

Honoring the civil rights leader also means taking action to improve the community, said Lyles, adding that there is plenty of work to do.

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He rattled off a list of statistics, including the fact that Berkeley County has the highest school dropout rate in West Virginia and that 14.6 percent of Jefferson County's youths live in poverty.

The path out of trouble is education, Lyles said.

About 75 people attended the afternoon service, and Lyles encouraged those in the audience to join him in his efforts at Project Excel, a community-based after-school program that offers academic support services, artistic activities and cultural enrichment opportunities.

Lyles is the executive director of Project Excel, which operates out of the Shepherdstown Youth Center at 290 W. High St.

Church officials handed out cards to those in attendance to fill out if they wanted to help the organization.

"Dr. King made great sacrifices and we, too, should make sacrifices," said Lyles, as his actions became more animated. "I'm trying to keep still, but something is getting a hold of me," he said.

To show his commitment for the work, Lyles announced at the end of his speech that he is stepping down from his long-held job as pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church along W.Va. 480. Lyles said he will step down July 1 to devote more time to Project Excel and El Shaddai International, a recently formed local organization that will extend educational programs such as after-school tutoring programs to students in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

El Shaddai also will work to build schools in West Africa, he said.

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