COVID-19: In Shadow Of Twin Spires, Ministry’s Commitment To Neighborhood Children Continues

The big news in the Thoroughbred racing world on Tuesday was the decision by Churchill Downs Inc. to change the date of the Kentucky Derby from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September.

The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has wreaked havoc on virtually every aspect of our daily lives, and horse racing is not exempt. Every person, every business, every organization has had to adapt in one way or another.

That includes Grace Church for Kids, which sits just a few blocks south of the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs at 900 Denmark Street in Louisville, Ky.

The ministry was started seven years ago by Pastor Corey Nelson, a former Marine who with his wife, equine artist and photographer Rickelle Nelson, came to Kentucky from Iowa “because of the horses.”

Given the challenge of reviving a Methodist Church with a dwindling congregation, Pastor Nelson and Rickelle developed non-denominational programs for the Wyandotte’s neighborhood’s many at-risk children. Grace for Kids gave them a safe environment away from the drugs and crime of the neighborhood, a place where they could play, get a hot meal, help with their school work and learn the teachings of the Bible.

Rickelle and Corey Nelson and some of the Grace Church kids

Grace for Kids is not affiliated with Churchill Downs, but many in the backstretch and front side community have come Grace for Kids to volunteer their time in the kitchen, food pantry or at special events for the children. Among those is photographer Holly M. Smith, who brought the Nelsons’ commitment to the children of the Churchill Downs neighborhood to the attention of the Paulick Report.

“Rickelle and her husband are amazing and are doing wonderful things for some very deserving kids who don’t come from the best part of town,” Smith said.

“The racetrack family has been great,” said Rickelle Nelson, who continues to assist her husband while she undergoes chemotherapy after having surgery to treat ovarian cancer.  “It’s one of the many things I love about the track and the people – the way everyone bonds to help.”

“We’ve got a great bunch of volunteers,” Pastor Nelson said.

Nearly 300 neighborhood kids, from newborns through high school ages, participate in the church programs, with upwards of 60 of them there every day the doors are open.

“We are open on Monday through Thursday from 3-5 p.m. for after school, which we call the Hangout,” Rickelle Nelson said. “The kids get to come in and get help with homework, play games and get some food. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday morning we serve them all hot meals that brought in by volunteers. The only day – before recent events – that we aren’t open is Saturday.”

The recent events, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent closures of schools and group gatherings, have shut down the in-church programs but not the Nelsons’ commitment to the neighborhood.

Equine photographer Holly Smith with other volunteers at Grace Church

“Right now we are serving food/snack bags Monday through Friday,” Rickelle Nelson said. “On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday we have to-go containers with warm meals.”

Grace for Kids Church depends on volunteers and donations to continue its ministry to the children of the neighborhood surrounding Churchill Downs. To make a donation, buy a gift card or volunteer your time, click here. Visit the Facebook page of the Grace Kids: A Church for Children here.

“As you can imagine, they come from a bad neighborhood and some awful circumstances,” Rickelle Nelson said of the Grace for Kids children. “The majority of the kids get themselves up on their own and come to the church. It’s a safe place for them and it’s amazing the change that we have seen in so many of them.”


The post COVID-19: In Shadow Of Twin Spires, Ministry’s Commitment To Neighborhood Children Continues appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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