WHEATFIELD — On Saturday, Feb. 23, Grace Fellowship Church hosted “The Big Event” at Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatfield. The event, offered free to the community, was a grand kick-off for an ongoing “For The Community” Campaign that will enrich and connect the community of Jasper County.

Approximately 100 volunteers spent their time and effort participating in the set up, performance and tear down of the event, while multiple clubs and organizations donated food and supplies to guarantee a successful production.

Upon entering the doors, community members were greeted with smiling faces and a detailed map explaining the location of activities, as well as times and types of performances being held throughout the event. The high school gymnasium was packed with long lines of children anxiously waiting their turn on one of five inflatables while other attendees stood in line to get inked with a temporary tattoo. The north wing of the cafeteria was alive with activity as community members participated in more than a dozen carnival games, while in the south wing, patrons filled their bellies with free hot dogs, popcorn and water. People then gravitated toward the free cotton candy, the machine spinning non-stop to keep up with demand, before meandering their way to the auxiliary gymnasium to catch one of the many free performances by local clubs and organizations. More than 1,200 community members attended The Big Event.

Grace Fellowship Church exists to help connect people to God, His church, and His world. Taking their community involvement and mission a step further, Pastor Tim Hester and his team of believers have launched a four step “For The Community Campaign.”

“We are on a movement to love and serve our community,” said Hester.

The first step in their vision for the campaign is the construction of an 8,000 square foot indoor play park designed for children ages 4 to 12, which will be located on the same property just north of the church’s current location. This park will include a toddler play space and a special needs activity center, and will be staffed with Grace Fellowship volunteers. Plus, members of the community can enjoy this park at little to no cost to them year round. “This is a gift we are giving to our community,” said Hester.

For the academic year of 2019/2020, Grace Fellowship will partner with Wheatfield Elementary School in the Kids Hope Ministry. The Kids Hope Ministry is a program that links churches with schools for the sole purpose of building relationships, mentoring and sharing the love of Jesus with students, parents and faculty. Three percent of funds raised for this campaign will be donated to Wheatfield Elementary to supplement the needs that are not otherwise met through public funding.

The vision continues with an after school learning center, which will be located at Grace Fellowship, for students that could use help academically. Tutors and mentors will be provided at little to no cost for members of the community. Opening date for this program will be announced when available.

Lastly, pending application approval, Grace Fellowship will join thousands of other churches across the world to host a Night To Shine with the Tim Tebow Foundation in February of 2020. The Night To Shine event is geared toward community members with special needs, giving them and their families an unforgettable, prom night experience.

“Grace Fellowship has a deep desire to be a blessing to the northern Jasper county area including the neighboring communities like Hebron, Lowell, Kouts and Rensselaer. We have great plans in the future to meet the needs of our community and very excited to announce them as we begin to roll them out in a few months,” said Hester.

Grace Fellowship Church would like to thank Dance Magic, Kouts Dance Team, Pop Warner Cheerleaders, IKICK Martial Arts, and Wireman Brothers Basketball for the free performances at The Big Event, Alpha Baking Company for donating all of the hot dog buns free of charge, DeMotte Elementary for the utilization of their inflatables, and for the cotton candy donation by a family of Grace. All are welcomed to attend any of Grace Fellowship’s worship services on Sunday at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11 a.m. Nursery and children ministries are provided during adult worship.