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Agape Dinner held in September for youth at Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center

Written by Marty Curtis

For five years, FPC member Steve Wilson and other volunteers have been helping spread God’s love to the young boys and girls at the Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center in Georgetown. An Agape Dinner is held at the juvenile detention facility at least twice a year for the youth, their family members, staff and a few volunteers from the Agape Group of St. John’s United Methodist Church and from
FPC.

After seeing a video of a group hosting a similar dinner for homeless people, Steve talked to his family about what was on his heart. Next, he called on some friends, a couple who attend St. John’s, Fred and Melissa Barhydt, and they were all in with the idea.

Then Steve and the Barhydts had lunch with Scott Matthews, Executive Director of Williamson County Juvenile Services, and the Agape Dinner became reality. “When we told him what we wanted to do, tears rolled down his face,” Steve said. “The Barhydts offered to take this idea and help run with it, organize it and recruit volunteers and donations.”

Until recently, it was pretty much a St. John’s project. That church’s congregation also supports the Kairos Ministry at a correctional unit in Gatesville. The ministry addresses the spiritual needs of incarcerated men and women. Now Steve is hoping FPC members will get involved and support the Agape Dinner, which is funded through donations.

Before the pandemic, Robert Cravens, FPC Mission Committee elder, volunteered at the dinner after hearing a presentation Steve gave to an FPC men’s Bible study.

Pre-pandemic, the dinners have had some 150-175 staff, youth, their families and volunteers participating.

A recent dinner was held with a small group at the center via Zoom because of COVID-19 safety concerns. Steve asked Kelly Ann Seaman, FPC Youth Director, to speak. Other virtual attendees from FPC were Teresa Wilson, Jaime Cowan, Christina Bondesen, Chessa Rizzotto, Babs Cape and Gary and Kay Cox.

The meal is catered by Ralph Aquaro of CJ’s Catering, and the format typically includes a meal, prayer, music, words from the St. John’s pastor, Rev. Darren Walker, and a speaker. Steve said the youth have
expressed an interest in speakers on job and career opportunities. The Agape Group hopes to have another dinner before the end of the year.

Over the years, Steve’s wife, Teresa, has helped decorate the center for dinners at Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and other holidays. “Goody bags” are often put together for the youth. The first dinner was
held at St. John’s, with center staff transporting the youth there. But since then, the dinner has been held at the center.

The center is a secure facility that houses juvenile offenders. They may be awaiting trial or sentencing, or they may be serving a sentence. The center’s focus is less on punitive measures and more on education, rehabilitation, development and resolving legal conflicts.
For more information, contact Steve at
512- 864-4560.