Local volunteers are using an unconventional approach to teach children religion.
They're holding Sunday school outdoors this summer -- on Saturdays.
Joanne Lorenzo, a religious activist, came up with the idea for the summer vacation Bible school, which is called Sarah's Sidewalk Sunday School.
The school is held in Gluck Park, at 15th Street and Weston Avenue, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday through Aug. 18. A picnic will wrap up the school's last Saturday.
In the event of rain, the school will be held in St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church on 18th Stret.
The school is named after Sarah in the Bible, who had children late in life. Lorenzo, who has no children, said it is a blessing to be able to bring children to God with the Bible school.
Shamrock the Clown will help by letting people on the streets near the park know about the school, she said.
Parents can drop their children off and pick them up at 5 p.m.
Lorenzo said she got the idea for the school from one launched in New York City by Bill Wilson, who is president and founder of Metro Ministries International, the nation's largest ministry to children.
"He was a homeless child," Lorenzo said of Wilson. "His mother left him on the street corner and told him she'd be back." The boy waited for three days, but his mother never returned.
Lorenzo said she and another organizer, Lisa Aquino, have solicited help from many churches and other organizations. They have donated enough school supplies and book bags to allow every child who attends the school to take home a bag filled with supplies.
Children and their parents need to register for the book bags at Niagara Community Action Program, 564 19th St.; Niagara Community Center, 15th Street and Center Avenue; or Hannah House, 1105 Ferry Ave. Lorenzo said children are welcome to come to the Bible school without registering.
Lorenzo said the school is operating on a shoestring budget.
Streetlight Ministries, a nonprofit Christian organization, gave 175 backpacks filled with school supplies during a Back to School Barbecue last August at Gluck Park.
A church from West Virginia called Flood of Faith donated a flatbed of supplies for the occasion.
"Some churches give to us . . . but really we're just taking it one day at a time right now," she said.
Lorenzo said she wants the children to learn about the Bible and God, but says it should also be fun.
Volunteers hand out snacks and juice boxes to the children before they go home.
Lorenzo is working with the Rev. Eric Johns of the Buffalo Dream Center, who gave her the lessons and the music for the school.
Johns offers a similar program in Buffalo. He said he looks for volunteers who are genuine, because children who live in the inner city instantly recognize people who aren't.
"You need people to run it, but basically you don't need a lot of money," he said. "Just a few people who are willing to love kids."