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Shoreline Community Church (SCC) Special Events Coordinator Rachel Kalman says there’s a big team to thank for bringing Night to Shine to this area on Feb. 7, including SCC Pastor Paul Allen and event co-lead (and church secretary) Vanessa Fleming-Redd as well as many other church members and community members and businesses. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Shoreline Community Church (SCC) Special Events Coordinator Rachel Kalman (left) says there’s a big team to thank for bringing Night to Shine to this area on Feb. 7, including SCC Pastor Paul Allen (center) and event co-lead (and church secretary) Vanessa Fleming-Redd (right) as well as many other church members and community members and businesses. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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It’s nearly time to roll out the red carpet for the shoreline’s first-ever Night to Shine, and Rachel Kalman says it’s all coming together thanks to some incredible teamwork and community support.
Sponsored worldwide by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine in Branford is being hosted by Shoreline Community Church (SCC), where Rachel serves as shoreline events coordinator. On Friday, Feb. 7 at Bill Miller’s Castle in Branford, SCC will join 700 churches around the world in creating a prom night experience for people with special needs ages 14 and older.
The Branford event will cater to 75 prom-goers with special needs, together with their 75 “buddy” dates, and, in a separate space at the same venue, hold a celebration for an anticipated 100 family members and caregivers.
“So there are really two parties going on,” says Rachel. “And it’s all just coming together beautifully. I love it.”
Rachel says none of the incredible experiences in store for the prom-goers, their buddies, and their families and/or caregivers would be possible without the help of many at SCC, including those who helped reach out to the wider community and local businesses for support. She especially thanks the event’s co-lead (and church secretary) Vanessa Fleming-Redd, who has been working side-by-side with Rachel over many months to pull the program together, and SCC Pastor Paul Allen, who first heard about the program from a deacon at the church, then dared to dream big and get the ball rolling on bringing the opportunity to this area of the state.
Allen, who has headed SCC since 2009, says Night to Shine is a perfect fit for the church and its mission.
“We really feel that our mission is to make the invisible God visible through outreach, partnership, and involvement,” says Allen. “And I don’t think we can think of a bigger demographic that is forgotten than our special needs community. So this was just a perfect partnership for us.”
Rachel says people planning to attend Night to Shine are coming not only from Branford, North Branford, and adjacent towns, but from Clinton, Killingworth, and beyond. And, while SCC received some 200 verbal commitments from those interested in having a loved one attend, she urges everyone who is planning to come out to Night to Shine in Branford to complete the foundation’s required online registration, which must be submitted by Saturday, Feb. 1. To register online, visit shorelinecommunitychurch.nighttoshine.com.
In addition to most of the congregation pitching in as volunteers for the event, Rachel also thanks the event’s core planning committee, which includes SCC members Stephanie Alderman, Elissa Cast, Lindsey Hurst, Annie Lyons, Carol Lukaszek, and Shannon Nason, together with Diane Pappacoda of Branford Early Learning Center and Isa Bolotin of Loved Boutique. This past Sunday, Jan. 26, Loved Boutique brought in donated prom attire, collected over many months, and offered it to prom-goers during a special Night to Shine free shopping experience in the SCC sanctuary. The church is located at 9 Business Park Drive.
Bringing Night to Shine to the Shoreline
SCC is the region’s first church to offer Night to Shine in this area. Earning that designation was no small feat—SCC had to seek permission from the foundation by applying to become a host church. The foundation has many requirements and suggestions host sites must fulfill, from providing on-site emergency care support right down to ensuring a certain number of photographers will be on-hand, before giving a church the green light.
Most Night to Shine events are hosted by what Rachel says could be called “mega churches”—the kind with hundreds, even thousands, of members and large, sprawling church campuses and facilities.
By comparison, SCC, founded in Branford in 1983 (then known as Church of the Good Shepherd) has a membership of about 80 and service attendance that hovers at about 200. So it was a bit of a leap of faith for Rachel and Vanessa when they drafted the proposed budget and found it added up to more than $40,000.
“We just were not expecting that at all,” says Rachel.
“But we had to keep it together for the team,” adds Vanessa, smiling.
“We’re a smaller congregation, so it was a little scary, at first,” Rachel recalls. “But we thought, ‘This could happen, if people have a heart for this.’ And it has been incredible to see how everybody has come together.”
First, SCC needed a place to hold Night to Shine. From the start, “we just had this vision of having it at Bill Miller’s,” says Rachel. “All of the [Night to Shine events] are hosted by churches and most of them happen on campuses for churches, so we had to get approval for Bill Miller’s [from the foundation]. So I can pretty much guarantee no other Night to Shine is taking place in a castle! So the ambiance is already there. We’re excited about the whole venue, and how its really come together.”
As part of Night to Shine, every prom-goer is crowned king or queen. To add to the excitement, there to oversee handing out those tiaras and crowns in Branford on Feb. 7 will be none other than Connecticut’s Miss Universe [Classic 2017], Susan Bawlick Pagan.
“Miss Universe will be there to kick off the crowning ceremony and the message that Tim Tebow is broadcasting [worldwide] that night,” by video, says Rachel.
There will also be a classic balloon drop over the guests, one of just many exciting details planned for the party, Rachel hints.
Rachel thanks the team at Bill Miller’s for signing on as just one of so many local businesses and organizations pitching in to make Night to Shine a reality.
“Bill Miller’s really worked with us to make sure it could fit in our budget,” says Rachel.
The list of volunteers includes members of the area’s EMT and law enforcement community, the DJ, photographers, and videographers as well as those lending support by providing limousines, flowers, party booths, and hair, make-up, jewelry, and accessories stations, as well as food provided by local restaurants and more. “[E]verybody we’ve asked has just agreed to help out,” says Rachel. “Everybody is pitching in.”
Rachel also notes SCC received a $3,000 grant from the Tebow Foundation to help put on Night to Shine. Rachel is now looking eagerly ahead at what can develop from all of the great relationships and connections tied to the event.
“Our hope through the evening is that it encourages relationships are built not only with the honored guests, but with parents and caregivers there that evening, and that is helps to create relationships with ministries and different services. This is a springboard for all of that,” says Rachel. “It kind of encourages us as a congregation not only to think about jumping into that a bit more, but the community, as a whole.”
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