Local Church Develops New Outreach Programs


Matthew Dean

Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church is striving to make a difference on the Key Peninsula.

Grace Church originally formed in Purdy and met at several temporary locations, including Miracle Ranch. In 2015, the church acquired the building formerly used by Lakebay Christian Assembly in Lakebay, and began using it as their first full-time church location.

“When we first formed in Purdy, our intent as a church body was to minister to the peninsula,” said Kay Griffin, an attendee and Bible study leader. “It’s always kind of been at the base of our belief that this is where God wanted us to be.”

That belief was strengthened on an early visit to the current church site. Although the building had been unoccupied for over a year, someone had spelled out the word “HOPE” in paving stones in front of the church door. “We still don’t know who did it … but we took that as our motto, that someone has hope in us being here,” said Pastor Ed Longabaugh. “That’s kind of been our guiding light, if you will.”

Since moving to the Key Peninsula, Grace Church has started expanding its outreach programs in an attempt to serve and connect with the community. These efforts have ranged from simple yard work to participation in national programs and community support. It has also partnered with local programs like The Mustard Seed Project and Food Backpacks 4 Kids.

One of its more recent undertakings is participating in Bridges Out of Poverty, a national program that connects people in need with mentors who can help them accomplish their goals. “The idea of the program is for the participants to develop a plan to get from where they are, presumably in need, to where they need to go,” said Marilyn Repinski, another Grace Church attendee.

While many of Grace Church’s efforts have been successful, some have also been learning experiences. Although the church and its members are enthusiastic about making connections, they’ve found that sometimes patience is the best option. “Even the folks that come here … you have to be very slow in acquainting, because I think that’s what people generally prefer here,” Longabaugh said. “So what we can do is say, ‘Hey! We’re here, and we’re available. If you want to come, we’d be glad to have you.’”

This attitude of availability has informed Grace Church’s efforts in community service during its first year on the Key Peninsula. Longabaugh described the church’s approach to helping others as ready-fire-aim.

“Rather than coming up with some strategic plan and launching it, it’s ‘Hey! Get involved!’ and then figure out how and what, and how much you can do,” he said.

Grace Church has also begun to consider how much more it can add to its schedule of services. As the church’s reputation has spread through advertising and word-of-mouth, the number of requests coming into the office has also increased. Longabaugh stressed both the number of requests and the church’s desire to help.

“We really are thinking about, now, what’s our limit?” he said. “How many weed whackers do we have to bring to bear on one particular yard? But it’s a good question to have to ask.”

Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church is at 2406 McEwan Road KPN. For more information, go to epcgrace.org, or call 857-3436.