Wednesday, July 17, 2024

ICYMI: Proclaiming Grace by Remembering Jenna

Jenna Grace King (Melanie King)

JAMES CITY COUNTY — Losing Jenna Grace King at the age of 17 to a car accident showed her mother, Melanie King, that grief looks different for everyone.

“In 2008, we lost our daughter in a car accident. The moment I found out, God really told me I am going to show you a different way to grieve. [At the time,] I had no idea what that meant but, as we stepped a few days away from the accident I started to realize that I’m not going to be mourning the way that most people mourn,” explained King. “It has taken me a while to say that without feeling guilty. I just didn’t cry as much as one expects. God was just opening up the doors and opening my eyes.”

King said that in those moments, she looked to her community.

“We had a local church family that was looking to help feed people in our area so when this [the accident] happened, it just opened our eyes to the fact that we were living in an area where people were really in need of food. Living in houses that were not up to par. Needing clothing,” King stated, “There was a lot of need in our community.”

Wanting to honor her daughter’s memory, King used her energy to find ways to help others. Proclaiming Grace Outreach, a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves New Kent County and upper James City County grew from that.

“Almost immediately we held our first Jenna Bash Festival to raise money and awareness. And, by 2009, we became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and began to establish a relationship with Feed More and started our food pantry,” King said proudly.

That food pantry currently services 65 families each time it is open to those meeting requirements in finance and geographic location twice a month.

Speaking about her organization, King stated, “We are trying to ‘catch’ the people that fall in between the cracks. These are hard-working people just trying to get by, but are making a little too much to qualify for other programs. We also serve in times of emergency, for example, if someone has lost a job.”

Over time, Proclaiming Grace grew as King saw needs for clothing and household items as well as the crisis for housing and automobile repair within the community.

“As we continued to serve we began to see needs for other items. That led us to open our thrift store, Grace Village. This allows us to provide things to those who have needs as well as use the sales [from donations] to fund those needs,” said King.

Grace Village Thrift is located in Lanexa.

While the food pantry and thrift store fulfilled many demands, King wanted to address housing and car repairs, which she saw as a way to assist people to reach their potential and goals.

“Maybe the roof is leaking or the floor is caving in where they stay. So, we came up with a home repair branch that provides basic structural needs. We do not do any cosmetic things. We have put a lot of handicap ramps on homes,” stated King. “And we recognize people need their vehicle to get to work, so we developed the Go Program which allows up to $1,500 in car repairs.”

The entire operation could not exist without a team. Even with more than 100 volunteers assisting in all facets of the organization, there is always a need for more.

“We have well over 100 volunteers. They are the lifeblood of most nonprofit organizations. We are blessed with amazing volunteers,” King added, “But, we really need more, especially at the thrift store. Grace Village is the financial engine of what we do. We, desperately, need people to assist at the store with processing donations, pricing, stocking, running the register, etc. It can be for as little as two hours a week.”

This year marks the 16th anniversary of Jenna Grace’s death and the Jenna Bash Festival continues.

The carnival-style family event takes place Aug. 5 at the LifePointe Christian Church in Toano from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Jenna Bash will include games, inflatables, a waterslide for the kids, vendors, live music, a silent auction and more, with proceeds benefitting the operations and the Building Fund of Proclaiming Grace Outreach.

Additionally, honoring Jenna’s love for animals, the festival will donate a portion of the proceeds to both the New Kent Animal Shelter and the New Kent Humane Society.

To learn more at the Proclaiming Grace and Jenna Bash Festival webpages.

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