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Teens run Bible school at Washington Garden Apartments

June 25, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- An idea born 10 years ago at the Hagerstown Church of the Nazarene had a double target -- a meaningful project for the congregation's teens and worthwhile activities for children living in a low-income housing neighborhood.

"Steve Guertler, our youth pastor then, wanted the teens of the church to have a mission for the summer," said Vickie Hanshew, a church member who has been active with the weeklong program at Washington Garden Apartments for seven or eight years.

Patterned after more traditional Vacation Bible schools, the program ran this week from 10 a.m. to noon, and ends today.

"One day, we had 45 children," Hanshew said.

Many of the children return year after year.

But that success didn't happen overnight.

A nursing assistant at Western Heights Middle School, Hanshew, 45, said calls were made 10 years ago to several low-income housing projects to see if they would be interested in the program.

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Most said thanks, but no thanks, she said.

"A secretary at Washington Garden Apartments welcomed us," Hanshew said.

A meeting room in the management building with a kitchen was made available, as well as space for outdoor activities.

Hanshew has the longest run with the program while others have been involved for at least five years.

Andrea Sawtelle, the church's youth pastor, supplies the teen volunteers, while Brenda Brown with the children's ministries helps Hanshew convince the youngsters to attend.

"The ages are 4 years old through sixth grade," Hanshew said. Some younger children attend, but with their mothers present.

"It is such a great mission that we take that into consideration," she said.

Lunches are part of the program each day, Hanshew said.

"There are crafts, songs, theater, Bible study, as well as hugs and smiles," Hanshew said. "The kids eat it up."

Though the program has ended for this year, Hanshew said anyone interested in next year's event may call the church on Edgewood Drive at 301-797-4524.

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