On the first Thursday of each month there is a lunch and information session at the Third Street Education Center in West Greenville. You may sign up online. It starts at noon and ends with an optional tour from 1:00 to 1:30. What was once the public Third Street School has become home to a Christian academy for boys, an after-school program, and classes/camps for the arts (drama, violin, poetry, etc.).The 25,000 square foot building sits on fifteen acres of park-like property along the Tar River. There are playgrounds, athletic fields and a large community garden. Three branches exist under the umbrella of Third Street Education Center: Third Street Academy, Community Impact and Third Street Business and Workforce Development.
The seeds were planted much earlier, but over ten years ago a group of men started gathering to pray for the community and especially children in West Greenville. At some point a house on Chestnut Street was donated. Later a community garden was started. Along with working on preparing the soil, planting and tending there was a lot of hanging out, throwing a football and getting to know the neighbors. While in the suburbs people began to building decks out back, in inner cities there remained much more of a “front porch” culture. Many locals enjoyed visiting. Grandmothers began urging the men to help their grandchildren.
A vision “to see generations transformed by the power of the gospel” came into focus. In 2012 Third Street School became available for sale. It was purchased and major renovations began. Today the academy is in its second year, with pre-kindergarten through second grade. Class sizes for the “Third Street Gentlemen” are capped at fifteen and the plan is to add a grade each year up until eighth grade. There is a sliding scale for tuition. Donations of time and money make all of these programs possible.
The overriding focus for the center is on the almost unimaginable fact that God our Father relentlessly pursues his children, as Jesus portrayed in the Parable of the Prodigal. “But while he [the younger son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” “’Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:20, 22-24)
We have wonderful ministries in Farmville that have similar visions to that on Third Street. “We work to see the cycles of fatherlessness, poverty, and hopelessness come to an end. We believe generations can be transformed, if we are willing to take steps of action filled with faith and compassion into long-lasting, trusting relationships with our neighborhood and the communities of Greenville and Pitt County.”