Like most great things in the world, it takes more than one person to make it happen. First, it takes the person with a great idea. Then there are the obvious players, the actual developer, the facilitator, the beneficiary and then all the millions of other variables that have to come together that no one thinks about but that ensure optimal fulfillment. Often those folks come from where you least expect it. In Ardmore Family Literacy’s case, one of those “variables” is Dr. Rick Baggett.
Dr. Baggett was until this past Sunday the pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore. He gave the last sermon of his career on a beautiful July day amongst a crowd of his parishioners. Many of whom sat in those seats each week of his tenure. Over the years he has counseled and enlightened each of them on the teachings of the good book and likely told them many a corny joke.
However, his ministering to us at AFL was different. His role initially was a savior of sorts. We were renting a room for our classes at another location when Dr. Rick came to me to learn more about the work we were doing for adults. The room we were renting was at one time a nice venue but after years of inattention it was drafty, run-down and the air temperature was unpredictable. There were many other issues too numerous to mention.
He was excited to see how we gave adults a handout & up towards increased literacy. He loved the idea of serving those that he didn’t often see in the pews of FPCA. He knew improving one’s educational levels led to bigger things for the families of our community. He saw the frustration in my eyes because the heat was out in our drafty classroom the cold winter day he had chosen to visit. It was not only uncomfortable for the students but sent a message that as usual, these vulnerable adults were an after thought. Something many of those who’ve misstepped in life get really used to.
We talked about the possibility of relocating to an unused building behind the church where he pastored. One where we could spread out a little. Have a nursery for our student’s young children and maybe even an office to store important files of our program.
Of course, I was all for it and he left with the promise of seeing what he could get done. He would work to sell the idea to his church elders. He delivered on that promise in a big way!
Months later we moved into a newly renovated space behind the protective aura of the main sanctuary. It possessed the fresh smell of paint, newly laid carpet and an energy that screamed: “dreams will come true here”. A place where those attending felt valued.
To this day, now two years later we hold our classes here. We will begin our third class year here in September. So far we’ve enjoyed not only the building but the knowing that Dr. Rick Baggett was right around the corner and ready to help in any way he could. Over the past two years, he has been one of our biggest cheerleaders. He’s updated the church elders on our successes and insured their support thru that. He’s answered my call when the place was flooding and when shady characters were lurking. Each time rushing down to make sure all was ok. His ministry has reached many folks who will never sit in the pews at FPCA but who have felt valued because he saw a way to assist and made a move. His taking the time to put down the fork to his everyday full plate and seeing what else he could affect made the difference in more lives than likely belong to the church where he served.
I’m known to say often these days that folks need to just turn off their tv sets or computers and find a way, anyway, big or small to engage with those in their communities. It’s the only way any progress will be made. No Facebook post or biased news report is going to make better the lives of your fellow humans. I encourage you to be that variable that helps the wheels of the good life turn like Dr. Rick has done. Oh and learn some corny jokes, they come in handy!
Best wishes to Dr. Rick & Joyce in their retirement. We hope you ride your bike by and see us once in a while! You’ll always be a cog in the wheel of our success!
Executive Director at Ardmore Family Literacy