Editor’s Note: To view more photos from Vacation Bible School, go to the Fort Knox official Flickr site at Large numbers celebrate sanctity of life at Fort Knox Vacation Bible School 2022 | Flickr.
FORT KNOX, Ky. — A much larger than expected number of children attended Vacation Bible School at Fort Knox July 25-29 this year, thanks in part to some local area participation and no COVID mask restrictions.
Participating alongside the Fort Knox youth were children from two churches outside the gates: Columbia Baptist Church and LifePointe Church of Elizabethtown.
“Typically it’s not Army fashion to do this, but we had permission from the Chaplain [(Col.) Ed] Hamlin after they contacted him, so they worked with me for background checks and child protection training,” said Dr. William Townsend, director of religious education at the Fort Knox Religious Support Office. “We had an abundance of kids and workers.”
Among the 130 or so children and 50-plus volunteers was Aaron Labarge, family pastor at Columbia Baptist.
“There’s a local church in the Elizabethtown area that is doing mission week, so they connected a lot of the dots,” said Labarge. “We’re friends with some people at the church and they said, ‘Hey, you’re former military. This will be perfect for you.’”
Labarge, who served on active duty in the Army for eight years, said he and some others from his church volunteered to help while their youth participated in the program, conducted in the RSO building.
Townsend said planning for this year’s program started roughly a year ago, but didn’t start honing in until about five months prior to the start, when they received the “Zoomerang” curriculum. His first order of business was to appoint a co-director to oversee all the business of making the program flow naturally with few issues: “From then on we just zoomed.”
The lifting of indoor mask mandates on post added to the draw of VBS, according to Townsend, who said it was nice to see the children’s faces and engage with them without the masks.
“We did do post-COVID protocols as a precaution, however,” said Townsend. “But it’s been refreshing to be open.”
Labarge said the experience was so enjoyable for him and his youth that they are planning to participate again in 2023.
“I told them, ‘Next year if you need help with VBS, tell us’ because this is perfect for us,” said Labarge. “This is exactly what my youth are used to doing.”
Townsend said he has already been given the green light to work with both churches for next year’s curriculum, and possibly even a third church.
Labarge said an added benefit of working with Fort Knox leaders has been getting to know community members, and celebrating the sanctity of life alongside them before the start of a new school year while building friendships.
“They have so many moving pieces on post, so the more our communities can build into life at Fort Knox, the better,” said Labarge. “That’s stability, especially for these kids. Consistency means the world to them.”