RIDGWAY — Ridgway’s sixth annual Community Vacation Bible School will be held from 5:30- 8 p.m. Aug. 12-16 at the Ridgway Firemen’s Carnival grounds, offering four days of activities and fellowship.
The VBS is a team effort of several churches — Awaking Alliance, Hallton, St. Leos, Grace, Methodist, First Lutheran, Bethlehem Lutheran, the Salavation Army and The Church Gathering, said Coordinator Stevie Gustafson.
Several other community members who don’t necessarily have a home church also contribute, she said.
“The majority of our core group of volunteers have been on board since our very first year, so we have become a bit of a church family of our own,” Gustafson said.
The VBS welcomes children 4-years-old through 12th grade.
The fifth annual “Back 2 School Bash” will coincide with the last night of VBS, Friday, Aug. 16, Gustafson said. The bash is organized by many of the same volunteers, and funded largely by Walmart grants and other Ridgway donors. It provides stocked backpacks for any Elk County student in kindergarten through 12th grade. The bash includes games, snacks, prizes and more, at no cost to the children and their families.
“A community themed VBS was a vision many years ago by a few different people,” Gustafson said. “When we held our first VBS, it became evident just how important this event was for many reasons. We noticed that many children were coming to VBS on their own, or without a parent, and many were coming in hungry. It became our number-one mission to ensure that not only would we continue to hold this event every year, but we would hold it in a centrally-located venue within walking distance of downtown, so that it would be accessible to kids that would need to make their way there on their own.”
Last summer, the VBS crew implemented a “mini meal,” including a grab-and-go food item provided by local establishments each night of VBS, Gustafson said.
“It’s just incredible to see businesses and people donate their time and goods and come together for our children in the name of Jesus,” she said.
Generally, VBS welcomes 150-175 children each year, Gustafson said. Each year, a different theme is offered to engage youth of all ages.
“Each number of our rotations includes a Bible lesson, snack, game, craft and opening and closing,” she said.
Security and safety of the children is extremely important, Gustafson said. Each child is checked in and out, and a security team surrounds the carnival grounds.
“We have come to know the kids and their families personally and on a first name basis,” she said. “The security team really gives parents the peace of mind that their children are completely safe the entire time.”
VBS also hosts a penny drive contest each year, where children bring their spare change all week, and money raised goes back into the community, Gustafson said. In the past, penny donations have helped the rebuilding of the skate park, the Ridgway Parks Program and Ridgway Fire Department.
This year, sixth through eighth graders will work with Jason Phipps on a skit or play that will be performed Friday night, and ninth through 12th graders will earn community service hours required for school, Gustafson adds.
For more information, visit the Ridgway Community VBS on Facebook. To register, visit www.awakeningalliance.org/2019-vacation-bible-school.