Since Friendship Baptist Church was founded in 1984, the church's congregation has grown from six members to more than 400. Due to the growth, last May the church leaders decided to increase their focus on the local community by hiring Mark Klimovitz as associate pastor of outreach/education.
"My responsibilities as pastor of outreach include identifying opportunities to reach out to and engage the local community, including Eldersburg and West Friendship," Klimovitz said.
He named this outreach program the LoveLoud campaign and said that he decided early on that the best way to succeed was to form a partnership with the town of Sykesville. He began by organizing a group of church members who were also contractors to replace the roof of the pavilion at Millard Cooper Park and to add mulch to the three play areas located in the park, both at no cost to the town.
"We just want to go out and make a difference in the community, and take what is an already great community and enhance it even more and make it even better," he said.
Last December, he also held the first event in his LoveLoud campaign at Millard Cooper Park called Cowboy Christmas. Laura Gulley, an office assistant at the Church and a member for 10 years, said the community's turnout was better than they had expected.
"We had such a great response that we decided to go back to Cooper Park to do another event," Gulley said.
The church will be holding its first Countdown to Easter from 3-6 p.m. April 13 and will include a puppet show musical, petting zoo, moon bounce, pony rides, clowns, concession stands including sandwiches from Grilled Cheese & Co., and a classic and modern car show. Both Gulley and Klimovitz said that everything at the event, including admission, is free for those who wish to attend.
"We are going to have a little bit of everything for everyone," Gulley said.
At the Cowboy Christmas event last December, despite the weather being cold, the turnout was greater than expected.
"We had between 900 and 1,000 people there that day," Klimovitz said.
The church is actually hoping for more than that at Countdown to Easter if the weather is nice.
Since the majority of the entertainment is geared toward children, Klimovitz decided to include a car show, something that he has both passion for and experience planning.
"My first car was a '66 GTO convertible and ever since then I've had a love for classic cars," he said.
Before he became the associate pastor at Friendship Baptist Church, Klimovitz planned three car shows at the previous church he was a member of. He already had connections to car clubs and some of the members of Friendship Baptist Church also were car enthusiasts. Klimovitz said that because of all the church's connections, he is expecting a large turnout.
"For this event, because we are opening it up to modern cars as well as classics, we are thinking that we'll probably have somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 100 cars," Klimovitz said.
However, because there is no registration fee for car owners and the fact that it will be one of the first car shows in the area this year, if the weather is friendly, the turnout could be even better.
The cars will be parked on Cooper Drive, the road separating the park from Sykesville Middle School and overflow for the show will be in the parking lot of the school.
At the end of the show, three winners will be selected. Unlike other car shows, the attendees of the event will select the winners, not official judges. Klimovitz said that everything at the fair is designed to ensure that the fans of the car show have an interactive experience.
"When people vote for their favorite car they automatically get registered in a drawing to win a four pack of tickets to Hershey Park," he said.
As part of the LoveLoud campaign, the purpose of the event is outreach. However, Gulley also said that the campaign is reciprocal in nature.
"We are trying to get the Friendship Baptist Church name out to the community and letting everyone know that we are here," Gulley said. "Part of doing these events is to get the community involved with the church, but to also be a part of the community."
The church's main goals are always fellowship and evangelization, but with the LoveLoud campaign they also want to enhance the community by growing it not just spiritually but economically as well.
"Our goal is to create a venue where the community can come together, people of all ages, and have fun, meet their neighbors, all at no cost," Klimovitz said. "By doing so, people will hear about the town of Sykesville, they will learn about the many fine businesses, the many recreational opportunities, and the community is bettered because of that."