It all started with an old bus.
“We had this empty bus in the parking lot, and we wanted to put it to use,” said Lynn Gore, coordinator of People and Community Together, or PACT. “Our pastor, Dan Carlton, gathered a bunch of us together and asked us, ‘How can we use this bus to help families in our community?’”
Carlton, pastor at Culpeper Baptist Church, asked if the group could think of a way to teach life skills to families in Culpeper County who may lack connections or resources.
“By the third meeting, we had a name for the organization, a logo, a website and a Facebook page,” Gore said. “Everyone at these meetings caught the vision—there was so much excitement and energy. We’re thrilled with how everything has come together.”
A collaborative effort of more than 25 community organizations and nonprofit groups, PACT invites families and individuals of all ages to come to one location for a meal together once a week, as well as classes, activities, service opportunities and a range of connections and resources.
On Tuesday, Aug. 20, PACT will hold its inaugural event. Registration opens at 4:30 p.m. at Culpeper Baptist Church. Anyone who is interested can just drop by that evening; there’s no need to pre-register.
What about that bus which needed to be put to use?
“The bus will be shuttling people from different areas of the community over to the church,” Gore said. “It will stop at Mountain View Community Church, and pick up folks at Belle Courts [apartments], and the mobile home community. We’ll bring everyone who wants to come to the church for the event and back home again.”
After dinner, which begins at 4:45 p.m., a variety of activities will follow at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.
Both retired and current schoolteachers will be on hand to provide help with homework or tutoring for any children who need it.
A range of STEM activities will be available for students who enjoy hands-on learning. Adults will also be prepared to read to children either one-on-one or as a group, for any age, from picture books to teen novels.
For adults, every week, there will be a PACTalk—designed to be like a TED talk—addressing issues and sharing ideas to improve listeners’ quality of life.
This Tuesday, Culpeper social worker Amanda Findley will share thoughts about how to live a more healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally.
GED and ESL information and assistance will be available, as well as an opportunity to create and write cards and letters to first responders and active military.
“We’re offering Spanish classes for English speakers who need it,” Gore said. “That’s something we’re really excited about.”
In future weeks, Gore said Soapbox Region 8 Education Coordinator Frankie Gilmore will provide information about the area’s Soapbox Derby—what it is, why it’s valuable, what students learn from it, and how to get involved.
“She’s arranged to donate a kit and a group of kids from PACT will be able to put it together and race it in the Gravity Downhill,” Gore said. “That’s going to be great—the kids are going to love that.”
The group hopes to add more activities in the coming months. Already planned are a pickleball clinic, diabetes education classes, various music classes and much more.
“We’re also looking for donations—people who could provide a meal for the night, or food of any kind,” Gore said. “And supplies—children’s books, STEM supplies, anything that might come in handy.”
All kinds of organizations and community leadership are involved in the project. They include the Virginia Extension Office, Culpeper County Public Schools, The Literacy Council, several churches, the NAACP, Wayland Blue Ridge Baptist Center, Piedmont Regional Adult & Career Information (PRACEP), Services to Abused Families (SAFE), and more.
Those groups’ leaders hope the weekly program will help draw the community together, Gore said.
“It’s a great way for us to all be united in a cause that helps everyone in a positive way,” she said. “It’s really been so amazing how generous people have been with their time, and how willing they are to offer whatever they have to invest into those around us who need it the most.”