St. Stephen A.M.E.: Still Prioritizing Prevention and Still Offering Love | Prevent Child Abuse NC

By: Kris Demers, Prevent Child Abuse NC Communications Manager

All children need safe, stable, nurturing environments, positive experiences, and caring connections to thrive. During the challenges inflicted by COVID-19, we’re reminded that one of the most important ingredients to a thriving community is connection.

It’s been a year since we introduced you to St. Stephen A.M.E. Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, and our friend Reverend Thomas Nixon. In 2020, Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina’s (PCANC) Partnership Engagement Manager, Tracey O’Neal, met Reverend Nixon during a meeting with ONE Christian Network.

After hearing about PCANC’s unique mission to ensure that child maltreatment prevention is a priority for North Carolina, Reverend Nixon decided to bring that newfound relationship with Tracey and partnership with PCANC to his congregation just in time for their Thanksgiving service.

During the holiday service (and a few others throughout the year), St. Stephen A.M.E. collects a Love Offering to give thanks and keep the spirit centered in the holiday or special day by giving back to others.

“Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, we select an organization that is doing worthwhile work to benefit the broader community,” Reverend Nixon said.

St. Stephen A.M.E. showed their collective love and passion for this vital work by giving its 2020 Thanksgiving Love Offering to PCANC.

“We felt like it was a perfect fit,” Reverend Nixon said.

In 2019, the congregation was aware of child maltreatment as an issue, but Reverend Nixon understood his obligation to deepen the church’s role in preventing child maltreatment from ever occurring in their community.

“Unfortunately, we have a way closing our eyes to what we know is reality,” Reverend Nixon said. “When PCANC came into the mix two years ago, it began to open our eyes. Until there is a level of comfort, you rarely embrace a new idea. But in order to bring that comfort, you have to keep it in the forefront of the people.”

Today, PCANC continues to support St. Stephen A.M.E. in making child maltreatment prevention a priority as communities across North Carolina continue to face challenges inflicted by COVID-19, like social isolation and economic insecurity, which are risk factors for child maltreatment.

Over the past year, St. Stephen A.M.E.’s congregation took a deeper dive into learning about effective child maltreatment prevention strategies like the Protective Factors, Connections Matter NC, and other proven strategies and policies that build safe, stable, nurturing environments where children can thrive.

Now the congregation understands that child maltreatment is, in fact, preventable, and recognizes the vital role they play in building positives experiences, caring connections, and supportive environments for families.

Reverend Nixon noted that during this challenging time, the St. Stephen A.M.E. congregation took it upon themselves to help mitigate some of the stress individuals or families may be facing by providing a new way to access some basic needs (aka concrete supports – one of the five Protective Factors).

They call this concrete support the Blessing Box. Nestled outside the side entrance of the building, the Blessing Box is regularly filled with pairs of clean socks, mittens, gloves, non-perishable food, and other essentials that any individual can pick up at will, without question. Since bringing the box to the community, it has not only provided those in need with access to essentials, but it has also strengthened positive connections and instilled hope in others outside their house of worship.

“While you may not be able to do something to effect the whole entire world, you can do one simple thing that can have a lasting impact on a neighborhood in which you serve,” Reverend Nixon said.

Reverend Nixon believes that doing one good deed is never just one, rather it has the power to become a domino effect – and science tells us that he’s right! When we build positive connections and experiences, we’re instilling hope and helping to build resilience in others – and within ourselves. Resilience helps us get through tough times, and positive relationships and experiences create new brain connections – at any age. These connections boost our health and happiness making stronger, more connected communities.

We’re excited to continue to grow our partnership with St. Stephen A.M.E. as the congregation brings their passion for child maltreatment prevention to their own community, throughout North Carolina, and beyond. Tracey will continue to support Reverend Nixon, who was dubbed the “Child Maltreatment Prevention Ambassador” for A.M.E., as they highlight child maltreatment prevention together in upcoming A.M.E. conferences with congregations from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and North Carolina.

During this season of giving and gratitude, PCANC is grateful to St. Stephen A.M.E. and all the faith communities across NC who are dedicated to building safe, stable, nurturing environments and positive connections where children can thrive. Consider collecting a love offering with your congregation to help make child maltreatment prevention a priority!

We are still here and we’re ALL in this, together. Because together, We CAN Prevent Child Abuse, North Carolina!


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