As July rapidly approaches, firework tents are popping up like wild mushrooms all across the Joplin metro area, including one on a Joplin church parking lot.

At 2301 Connecticut Ave., home to the Generations Free Will Baptist Church, stands a yellow- and white-striped tent with a Military Fireworks sign waving to the vehicles passing by. The tent’s empty now, but come Wednesday morning, a nice assortment of “things that go boom” will be on sale for folks to celebrate America’s birthday. Church members young and old will man the tent from Wednesday through Saturday evening, raising money for a good cause.

“We did a rummage sale for years and it was so much work. After so many years, you start running out of stuff to donate,” said Pastor Jerald Bass with a chuckle Monday morning. Bass was sporting a Military Fireworks T-shirt, the firework distributor the church partnered with beginning last year. “So we went with the firework stand (in 2019), and we shattered our goal.”

The money raised from the sale of Roman candles, cone fountains, sparklers and missile batteries directly supported the church’s children and youth ministry last year, as well as helped pay for the annual mission trip that sent a dozen congregation members on a 938-mile trek east to Erie, Pennsylvania.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, however, there will be no annual mission trip in 2020, Bass said. The money will be saved for better times in 2021. At least that way, he said, “We’ll have a really good (trip) next year.”

Bass said the younger volunteers manning the tent next week will learn valuable, practical lessons when interacting with the public.

“They definitely do — they interact with people, which is so important, and our (vacation Bible school) always follows the week after this. And so we promote our VBS to every customer who comes in, so they’re right there with that, carrying the stuff out, helping them. They’re very involved with it. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to have some retail skills.”

Church members will also be manning the tent around the clock in order to protect the merchandise and to prevent thefts. Last year, a firework tent managed by Engage Church of Aurora was infiltrated by thieves, resulting in the theft of fireworks worth thousands of dollars.

Although 2020 certainly hasn’t been the best of years, the firework tents and stands popping up in Joplin and the surrounding communities should give a demoralized public a boost of nostalgic happiness.

“Definitely,” Bass said. “We’re excited to be getting back to more community interaction and outreach.”

And that’s really what the firework stands are all about.

“That’s the way we view it — as an outreach. The key is meeting people. Everything else” is secondary, he said.

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