By Stan Friedman
PRINCETON, IL (December 23, 2014) — When a young man was murdered at a party in the north end of Champaign, Illinois, last October, another teen who lives on the block was out playing basketball instead of attending the party.
He was one of 100 teenage boys participating in a league that meets every Friday night in a gym at the local Salvation Army as part of a program funded in part by Covenant Children’s Ministries. Not only do they play basketball from 9 p.m. to midnight, but they also pray together and participate in a Bible study.
In Dolton, Illinois, some 20 teens meet together to learn robotics and leadership skills as part of a pilot BOOCbotics program, which is part of the larger Building Our Own Community ministry started by Lance Davis, pastor of New Zion
Christian Fellowship, a Covenant congregation. All of the participants are considered “at-risk” youth based upon economic, academic, or health criteria.
Three high school seniors who participated in the robotics program have been accepted into college, and several other students have begun to develop a deeper interest in the sciences, said LaNiece Thomas-Flagg, BOOC administrator and BOOCbotics mentor.
Covenant Children’s Ministries (CCM), formerly Covenant Children’s Home, helped fund that project too. Altogether CCM contributed nearly $230,000 in grants to 28 organizations serving youth in the Central Conference over the past year. It presented an additional $25,000 to Covenant Kids Congo.
“It is Covenant Children’s Ministries’ vision to become a nationally recognized champion of the ECC in providing ministry to children who are at risk economically, spiritually, educationally, developmentally, and/or behaviorally by the year 2021,” said Chris Pickett, chair of CCM.
“Next year we will again restrict our grants for Central Conference churches and Covenant Initiatives for Care institutions,” Pickett said. “In 2016 we hope to include grants to churches elsewhere in the ECC.”
The ministry is funding the Central Conference projects through an endowment and current donors but will be seeking additional funds to provide grants across the denomination, Pickett said.
“We are following in the steps of Covenant Children’s Home, which began as a response to children at risk,” said Pickett. “CCM seeks to continue that mission in this day by expanding opportunities for churches to minister in their own communities using the funds we manage as a resource for all.”
Covenant Children’s Ministry was founded in 1921 as Covenant Children’s Home by the Central Conference to provide a home for children who had lost a parent or whose parents were unable to care for them. Due to declining funding from the state, the home ended its residential program in 2000.
Today the Princeton campus is used by groups such as Easter Seals, Special Olympics, and Young Life among others. It also partners with other ministries such as the Bureau County Health and Wellness Clinic, and Freedom House, which shelters and provides to other services to victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
Anyone interested in contributing to the work of CCM, including its grants, can donate at the website.