New Heights Fellowship Church at 613 Main Street in East Toledo is getting involved in much more than teaching religion.
Baptist Pastor Dan Stevenson, a 1988 Northwood High School graduate, says the church is looking for “partners to help in revitalizing the community and equipping people with the tools necessary to live a fruitful and abundant life here in our community.”
The church is tied into a ministry which provides grocery and clothing to those in need. Stevenson said since the church was planted specifically on Main Street to help clean up and improve the community there, it is open to homeless individuals and others who may be despondent.
Most of the membership lives in East Toledo. Stevenson said the church membership is currently at about 30 to 35, but at church sponsored events other neighborhood residents often volunteer.
The church has partnered with Block Watch and River East Economic Revitalization Corporation on community projects. On three Saturdays in April church volunteers filled 34 contractor bags full of garbage and cleaned out storm sewers and drains in an effort to clean up the streets.
If church officials could, they might even partner in economic development projects if it would help improve the community.
The “church-plant” is sponsored by the East Toledo Baptist Church on East Broadway. In May, the new church introduced itself to the community by making hundreds of new contacts with residents and leaders, says Pastor Stevenson.
“We’ve done a lot in the community since we’ve gotten here,” said Pastor Stevenson. “Mostly, right now, we’re being geared toward helping people know we’re in the community and be available to administer a need for them. We’ve done several programs in the last few months.”
Before the church settled in East Toledo about nine months ago, it met in the Northwood High School cafeteria for about one year. There, Pastor Stevenson said he developed a relationship with Superintendent Greg Clark and other school officials.
Others that have partnered include Toledo city council, the International Park advisory board, Annigames, Toledo Firemen, Charter One Bank, attorney Lonnie Lutz, John Shausser, UT BASH, and Vito’s Pizza.
In June, the church held community training days where each Tuesday night was training for some life skill, including an attorney to teach about wills and trusts. Representatives from Charter One Bank taught classes on banking skills, and the Toledo Fire Department taught fire safety.
New Heights in sponsoring a community rally in International Park on August 9 to remind people that “God is going to revive East Toledo through Jesus Christ our son,” and Stevenson says businesses or other churches that want to partner with him can telephone him.
The event is near the park gazebo, and everything that is being done that day is provided for free, says Stevenson. There will be food, music, and activities for children included.
Stevenson says the church’s Fourth of July celebration “ministered to hundreds of folks who came and enjoyed free food and prizes in honor of our Independence Day.”
On September 6, there will be a school supplies giveaway and block party celebrating education in the community. There will also be a small food pantry available to help those with food needs, if all goes as planned.
October 31, there will be a free mini-fest and candy for kids opposite the trick-and-treat time provided as a safe haven for kids, said Stevenson. He says candy donations and supplies would be appreciated and can be arranged through the church. Candy must be in unopened bags.
“Poverty, crime, hunger, disease even death are all aspects of sin and evil and they are enemies to God to be overcome by his people,” Stevenson wrote in an e-mail to The Press. “Stand with us and make a difference is the message of this event.
“New Heights Fellowship is a body of faithfully active believers existing for the purpose of reaching others with the teaching of Christ and equipping them to do the same. We are working to promote the feel of one big family by growing and actively participating in each others’ lives. We seek to reach New Heights in Jesus every day. No perfect people here,” Stevenson wrote.
Sounds like a typical sermon. Not necessarily so, says Stevenson, because his church is building a track record of community involvement in just a few short months of its existence.
“These sentiments make us different from other churches primarily because we are living the fact that the church is the people, not the building or a place of worship, and the people must strive daily to be the church,” Stevenson said.
Pastor Stevenson can be reached at 419-469-8808.