Crozet Cares Strives to Carry On

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Jewell-Ann Parton and Julie MacMillin
Jewell-Ann Parton and Julie MacMillin

Crozet Cares is an outreach ministry of Tabor Presbyterian Church that attempts to build community by offering programming in the arts, education and health and wellness. It was funded in 2013 with a non-renewable, three-year grant of $105,000 from the Presbytery of the James, the Presbyterian Church’s administrative region for Central and Southside Virginia.

The program sponsored the creation of the Crozet Community Orchestra and the Crozet Handbell Choir; has offered Tai Chi classes, safe home audits, Camp Hanover (a summer day camp for kids held at the church); built Harmony Place (the playground near the church); and sponsored Kindergarten 911 (a workshop on Kindergarten readiness), mindfulness workshops, self-defense training for women, workshops on aging at home, nutrition and exercise plans, blood drives, art exhibits, movie discussion forums, orchid shows, and more.

Now the grant is over and Tabor is hoping to raise enough money to continue a part-time programming director. “I’d like to see the Crozet community own Crozet Cares and Harmony Place by making donations to it,” said Tabor pastor Jewell-Ann Parton.

“Harmony Place is the only playground around with any shade and it’s next to Crozet Library.” Perhaps unexpectedly, it has been heavily used since it opened. Parton said the church has applied for a grant to make it more handicapped accessible.

The church also offers its Pickford-Chiles Fellowship Hall to community groups that need a meeting place, among them boy scouts and girls scouts, the new Crozet Toastmasters Club, the Crozet Catholic Mass choir, and others. “We waive part of our fee to make it affordable to groups that otherwise would not have a space,” said Parton.

“Crozet Cares has been Tabor’s gift to the community,” she said, stressing that the program has been run separately from the church. “We want Crozet Cares to be ecumenical and community-oriented. We weren’t trying to invite people to join Tabor. If you choose us, that’s great. But it’s not an agenda to get people in the pews. We’re trying to find a new way to witness who God is and that God cares for community. The Holy Spirit works in the secular world. Crozet Cares is the work of the Holy Spirit pulling the community together. One of our goals is to make the church the center of the community. Crozet Cares has put Tabor on the map in a way.”

Tabor has about 50 regular Sunday worshipers and a total registration of about 100, she said. She said Crozet Cares per se has not led to new memberships, though the church does continue to add members.

“We have been frugal as a church—frugal with money, that is. We’ve reached out to the community to show a way of witnessing that may be different from the past.

“If there’s no direction, things just won’t happen,” said Parton. “Someone has to manage the programming.” Robin McElwee took on the job when the program launched—Parton called her “the driving force”—and Julie MacMillin has had the role for the last year and a half. She has volunteered to continue handling the website and art installations in the hall.

“Tabor can’t take care of it any more,” explained Parton.

“Now we’ll see if the community can own what’s going on,” said MacMillin. “I’m excited to see what happens and if Crozet Cares gets roots in the community even deeper. We’re still ambitious to do more. Pickford-Chiles Hall is booked five nights a week.”

Parton said the idea for Crozet Cares came to McElwee and Molly Jones one day as they were working in the kitchen and talking how the hall might be used. At once they both thought “women’s retreat,” and from then the seed was planted.

Upcoming events include the handbell choir set for Sunday, Dec. 6, at 4 p.m. and the raffle of a quilt among the 20 about to be on display in the hall. An opening for the quilt show will be held Dec. 12 from 3 to 5 p.m. Raffle tickets are $5 each and the raffle will be held January 31.

“We’ve been a mighty voice from a small church with big ideas,” said Parton. “What Tabor was trying to do was create a covenant with the community and live out that covenant in tangible ways.”

Parton estimated that ongoing program direction would take about 10 hours per week.

The church has set up a fund to accept donations. Checks can be made out to Crozet Cares and sent to Tabor at P.O. Box 449 in Crozet.

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