Since last October, Linglestown Life’s Rockville Church campus has welcomed about 25 local students regularly to complete their online schooling from the church building.
The Community Classrooms program was started by Rep. Patty Kim (D-103) to connect churches like Linglestown Life and other organizations in central PA with students in need of a safe place to study during the pandemic.
Throughout the experience, Linglestown church leaders and volunteers intentionally made connections with families and checked in on their needs, said Pastor Taylor Pfaff.
“Years ago, our church wasn’t really engaging the neighborhood,” Pfaff said. “We’ve been trying to really rethink how we do that.”
For over a year, the church planned to create a community center and garden, Pfaff said. Then, through the Community Classroom experience, they zeroed in on what the neighborhood’s needs were and found a need for childcare and education assistance.
The church is in the process of finishing up “Ray’s Place,” their community center. The center is just down the street from their campus at 4386 N. 6th St. in Harrisburg.
Ray’s Place will incorporate tutoring and reading programs, along with a summer camp starting in July.
“What we want for this place to be is what the community wants it to be,” Pfaff said. “We want to share what we have.”
He expects that renovations to the former car garage building turned community center will be completed by June. On June 12, they plan to hold a summer reading kickoff event with the American Literacy Corporation, an organization that promotes reading in the Harrisburg area.
Pfaff said they have already started building raised garden beds for what will be a community garden at the center. He hopes it will provide one solution to the lack of fresh food in the area.
Additionally, Pfaff plans to incorporate other programs, like by-donation yoga and group bicycle rides, by working with other local organizations.
“Rather than us reinventing the wheel, we are trying to partner with others,” he said. “We want to uplift and empower what is already going on in our neighborhood.”
Sindi Widensky of Enola doesn’t attend Linglestown Life, but heard about Ray’s Place through Pfaff. She loved the vision the church had for the center and was looking for a way to get her kids involved in volunteering.
“It’s a great program, especially with the pandemic going on,” she said.
Widensky has helped with organizing furniture and books in Ray’s Place and with some of their recent outdoor activities, including an Easter egg hunt.
She’s excited for local children to be able to utilize Ray’s Place.
“It’s a place for the kids to have for years to come,” she said. “Everybody’s welcome.”
“We have a heartbeat for the community,” he said. “We are trying to do church throughout the week.”