Sidewalk Kids Hour Orchards Members Reach Out to Their Community

The Pathfinder leadership of the Orchards Church in Vancouver, Wash., wanted to find a way to reach out to the children in their neighborhood, so they started Sidewalk Kids Hour, held at Orchards Park.

The idea of Sidewalk Kids Hour is to gather unchurched kids from the neighborhood for a fun, interactive program with a spiritual focus. The children are usually from middle- to lower-income families.

Church members “blitzed” the neighborhood going door to door inviting kids to come and then visited the families of the kids who attended to keep them involved.

A four-week pilot program was held during the summer of 2005 and the leadership thought it had potential so they began planning for a weekly series of 10 programs to be held during the summer of 2006.

While Sidewalk Kids Hour began with the Pathfinder Club leadership, the program needed the support of the congregation to be successful, and the members responded overwhelmingly both with their time and money.

The first night drew about 100 kids, leveling out to about 50 or 60 kids. About 200 kids live in the neighborhood.

In addition to the program, the kids and parents who attend are offered a meal. "In some cases, this is the only meal of the day for them," says Greg Hillman, then the Pathfinder director.

At one of the programs, an 8-year-old boy had come, but was hanging out on the sidelines. A staff member went over and asked him if he would like to join in. He said that he couldn’t because he didn’t have an address and there was an address line to fill out on the registration form. Of course, he was included.

He sat down and was totally captivated by the program. Afterward there was a small meal, and he just kept eating and eating. He said that his dad was out of work, they had just been kicked out of their apartment, and they were living in their car.

Orchards Church pastor John Wesslen told of a mother of a Sidewalk kid who, when asked what they did on Thursday evenings said, “We go to church.” “It was surprising to me to realize that for her, what we were doing was 'church',” he commented.

Following the 2006 Sidewalk Kids program, many of the kids came to a Vacation Bible School held on the church lawn every weekday evening for a week. At Thanksgiving, church members sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner at the church, and 40 Sidewalk Kids and their parents came.

“We are looking forward to next summer and reaching out to the families in our neighborhood again,” said Chuck Davidson, one of the originators of the program.

March 01, 2007 / Oregon Conference