White Oak United Methodist Church in Red Bank has partnered with the Family Justice Center, Second Life and the Red Bank Police Department to help provide social services to local residents.
The Family Justice Center offers free services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and Second Life is a human and sex-trafficking advocacy center.
Previously, Red Bank citizens had to drive to Chattanooga for such services, which wasn't always a possibility for everyone who needed them, said White Oak Pastor Amy Nutt.
"The church was designed to be used more than just Sunday morning. To me, this is the Gospel in action," Nutt said of the new partnership which began last week.
The FJC will be set up at White Oak UMC for several hours each Tuesday to provide legal and social advocacy for those who have suffered from domestic violence. FJC Director Dr. Valerie Radu said the hours were chosen to dovetail with Red Bank City Court, from which some clients may be referred, though the services are available to the overall community.
"We're really glad to be there and that they're willing to offer space so we can provide services to that part of the city," Radu said of White Oak UMC. "It's such a different community, and this is so important to offer, especially considering the lack of public transportation [in that area]."
The church also has a dedicated space in its library for the children of clients served by the FJC so that the victims can get the assistance they need without having to worry about where their children will stay while they receive services.
Both Radu and Nutt have been in communication with Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol and Radu said the chief and his staff have been "very supportive" and have assisted by referring victims they see often to the FJC for further help and guidance.
"The police are so community-oriented," Radu said. "[Christol] is familiar with the Knoxville Family Justice Center, and so he was very willing to help."
Nutt recently celebrated her first year with White Oak. Before she arrived at the church, she said, its congregation numbers were dwindling and there were limited outreach opportunities. She decided to focus on outreach, and in the process, has helped turn the congregation around in more ways than one.
Reaching out to the Red Bank Police Department, the church provided space and opportunities for officers to be trained by the FJC on how to better respond to calls of domestic violence. The church also fed the officers during their training.
"It's just beautiful the way the chief has enabled us to work within the community," Nutt said.
Now, she added, the church's numbers have begun to rise again and more of the congregation is getting involved in the outreach and ministry programs, which she plans to continue to grow.
For more information about White Oak United Methodist, call 877-6042. Contact the Family Justice Center at 643-7600.
Email Shane Foley at email@example.com