INDIANAPOLIS — When teachers at an Indianapolis Public School returned for the new school year, they were greeted by a refurbished teachers room.

The soothing blue hues of paint and fresh cabinets were the work of a crew from Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield on its annual serve day.

On a recent morning, some of the students of the school, Charles W. Fairbanks School 105, were scheduled to play flag football. They’re part of a league at Crossroads Bible Church, the school’s neighbor to the north. Volunteers from Outlook Christian Church in McCordsville were among the coaches.

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Crossroads Bible Church, the elementary school and the two Hancock County churches have become part of a common picture of serving children and their families in this part of Indianapolis, one of six areas Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard identified in 2014 as needing extra police patrols.

City Mosaic is the program that has brought them together. Founder Greg Strand seeks to form partnerships among suburban churches, city schools and the churches in the schools’ neighborhoods. About 12 churches, from various settings in Central Indiana, are listed as Covenant Churches on the organization’s website.

“The church is going to be stronger if it works together,” said Mike Wilkins, missions and outreach minister at Outlook Christian Church.

Wilkins is one of the flag football coaches {span class=”aBn” data-term=”goog_1260987777”}{span class=”aQJ”}on Saturday{/span}{/span} mornings. Volunteers from Outlook were also part of a summer reading club at Crossroads Bible Church. Twice a week for five weeks, participating children met at the church for the club. It featured a Bible story, a life character lesson and games designed to make children think strategically and use their memory skills — in short, provide mental stimulation during the summer break from school. The group walked to the school to eat lunch.

During last school year, volunteers from Outlook and Park Chapel visited the school individually for weekly tutoring sessions, working with children recommended by teachers for extra practice.

At other times, volunteers served as field trip chaperones or helped with a father-daughter dance.

They weren’t having a Vacation Bible School or giving a spiritual presentation, Scott Kern said. Still, from time to time a child would ask: “Why are you here?” And the former educator, now a staff member at Park Chapel, had an answer.

“We love you … We feel God has called us to come and serve you.”

For volunteers who couldn’t commit to weekly tutoring, that service has taken the form of organizing teacher appreciation lunches or being matched with a teacher to send notes of encouragement, small gifts or supplies. Sometimes, a Bible study group will focus on supporting a particular teacher, with members sending candy or cards.

“We want them to feel encouraged and know they’re making a difference in kids’ lives,” Wilkins said.

One local family forewent gifts at a family celebration and instead paid for cabinets and paint for the teacher room, which the Park Chapel team installed over the summer.

Principal Paula Peterson said the encouragement “trickles down” from teachers to students.

“It just makes our teachers feel appreciated and our students feel appreciated,” she said, standing in the refurbished room. “It makes me feel appreciated.

“Just having that community support is important to students and staff and families.”

Wilkins said churches introduced to a school and community through City Mosaic are then able to learn about other ways to serve the community. Through the tutoring and reading club, volunteers met community residents who talked about wanting positive activities for their children; the flag football league at Crossroads was a way to provide that close by, Wilkins said.

“Everything we’re doing is aimed at trying to identify the needs of this particular neighborhood,” he said. “We try to spend as much time as we can talking to people and saying, ‘What’s a struggle people are having in this neighborhood?’”

It takes time to listen and learn about those needs, Wilkins said, and the volunteers have chosen service over sermons as they reach out in this area. Still, faith is the catalyst behind their work.

“The only way we’re going to overcome some of these issues with poverty and race,” he said, “is through the love of Christ.”

Learn more

To learn more about City Mosaic, see

To find out more about volunteering or contributing at Charles W. Fairbanks School 105, call Mike Wilkins at Outlook Christian Church at 317-335-6815.

The neighborhood

The elementary school and Crossroads Bible Church are part of a .75-square mile area pinpointed by former Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard. In October 2014, the mayor identified it and five other neighborhoods for extra police patrols because their rates of homicide, non-fatal shootings and drug overdoses exceeded the city’s average.

Current mayor Joe Hogsett has also payed attention to these six areas and has said he’ll send the same police officers to patrol those them from day to day so they can better build relationships with residents and perhaps help settle conflicts before they escalate.

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Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at