NEWPORT NEWS, VA. (WAVY) — First Baptist Church Morrison in Newport News will host an End of the School Year celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to have them to relax and celebrate all of their accomplishments for this year,” said First Baptist Church Morrison Pastor William Spencer.

This marks the third end of year celebration. Several years ago, the church adopted Jenkins Elementary School. The congregation cheers on students entering school on the first day and visits the school throughout the year. 

“Our first year was just for Jenkins Elementary,” Spencer said. “After that first year, we had so much support coming in. Anthem HealthKeepers of VA is now a co-sponsor of the event. With that support and resource, we decided to branch out and open it up to all schools in Newport News, Hampton and surrounding areas.”

The first 100 students will get gift cards. 

This year was a bit more challenging for Newport News students following the Richneck Elementary School shooting and at least one weapons-detection system in all Newport News public schools.

“Times are different,” Spencer said. “I can look back and truthfully say I’ve never had to deal with anything like this when I was growing up. We have to be cognizant of that as adults. They are dealing with something different [in this] generation. So we want to be supportive in every way that we can because of that.”

Spencer considered rescheduling the event after the tragic high school graduation shooting in Richmond on Tuesday.

“[We] decided to move forward with it, but also give some assurance to those coming that this will be a safe place for them.”

Newport News Police and Fire will be there to meet students. Spencer will lead a prayer for those in Richmond and all students. 

“We want to pray that God is covering and protecting them this summer,” Spencer said, “that no hurt, harm or danger will come to them.”

Regardless of beliefs, he said everyone is welcome at the free celebration.

“We want to be remembered,” Spencer said. “We want to make a positive change in our community.”

The congregation works daily to give back to the community with a drive-thru food pantry every Wednesday and Saturday.

Want to go?

First Baptist Church Morrison at at 12720 Patrick Henry Dr. in Newport News will hold its End of the School Year celebration for children in Newport News, Hampton and surrounding communities from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. The event is free and will feature food, games, prizes and giveaways.