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Left to right: Gail Duke, Angie Morgan, Carmen Torres, Bryan Lopez and Chip Sellers celebrate the presentations of the initial First Opportunity Scholarships at First Baptist Church of Dalton, Ga.

Left to right: Gail Duke, Angie Morgan, Carmen Torres, Bryan Lopez and Chip Sellers celebrate the presentations of the initial First Opportunity Scholarships at First Baptist Church of Dalton, Ga.

DALTON, Ga. — Tuesday nights are a happening time at the First Baptist Church in the “Carpet Capital of the World.” A growing Hispanic presence in the northwest Georgia town of Dalton led the congregation to begin Soul Food more than seven years ago.

The program began as a simple way to provide a good meal and hospitality to new neighbors who might be seeking both. Relationships grew quickly and closely.

The shared experiences led to greater engagement and expanded ministry over the years — including watching children grow up and face decisions about the future.

As a result, the congregation — combining the resources of Soul Food leaders, the Mission Committee and the First Foundation scholarship program— created a new First Opportunity Scholarship Fund to assist first-generation, college-bound students with ties to the Soul Food ministry.

The first two recipients — Carmen Torres and Bryan Lopez — are now enrolled in college thanks to this important assistance.

Carmen, a bilingual volunteer in Soul Food ministry and other good causes, attends Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta. Her goal is become a criminal psychologist.

Bryan, who came to the U.S. six years ago and became a citizen in 2012, is a native of Guatemala. With support of his family and others he faced many cultural challenges to become an accomplished high school student, winning many awards especially for volunteer service.

A math tutor and Sunday school teacher, Bryan attends Dalton State College with plans to go on to dental school.

Church leaders hope this is just the beginning of expanding the church’s ministry from a weekly meal to life-changing support for those they’ve come to know and love. BT

By John D. Pierce

 

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