What do you get when you cross a Richmond Hill United Methodist Church group mission trip with a Bryan County Helping Hands community service project?
You get a week’s worth of door-to-door community projects that have helped five families in need right here in Bryan County – and it all happened last week.
The Methodist youth group has gained a local reputation for their mission trips which have been designed around week-long trips to Romania, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and hurricane-stricken parts of Florida and Mississippi. In that time, they dispersed food, repaired roofs and completed a variety of different labor projects to help those in need. This time, RHUMC Youth Minister Kristin Smith decided to divert the group’s international focus and help people right here in Bryan County. To do this, she teamed up with the Bryan County Helping Hands organization.
Helping Hands, a group started by New Beginnings Church Pastor Steve Lane in conjunction with United Way, also is gaining quite a reputation for their local goodwill weekend excursions that entail visiting a Bryan County resident in need and fixing up their home or yard.
After months of preparation and screening of applicants by Bryan County United Way Director Janice Blount, six homes of needy families were lined up in Richmond Hill, Pembroke and Ellabell to receive free repair work throughout all of last week.
In addition to the home projects, the collaborative group also worked on refurbishment of the Jacob Grant Community Center in Richmond Hill and helped facilitate a food bank project in Pembroke.
When it was all said and done, over a hundred volunteers signed up for the venture. In addition to RHUMC, adult and youth groups from St. Anne’s, Sycamore on the Hill, Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church, New Beginnings Church and Pembroke Baptist jumped on board.
Helping Hands founder Pastor Steve Lane said his duties for this extended project entailed setting everything up and also pre-evaluation of the work sites. Beyond that, he met with the group each morning and was on call for assistance throughout the week. He said RHUMC member Tommy Wyatt took the lead role on getting their week-long local mission accomplished.
Wyatt grabbed the reigns and became a project manager of sorts. Volunteers, which averaged out to be about 45 each day, met each morning of last week at the Methodist Church. After breakfast, which was supplied by the Richmond Hill Rotary Club, Wyatt broke everybody up into groups and assigned them to a location.
"It went well," said Wyatt. "We pulled off eight projects with four groups per day with relative ease. Everyone, from the kids to adults, conducted themselves professionally and worked very well together."
Wyatt said 4 Richmond Hill homes, 2 Pembroke homes and 1 in Ellabell made the cut, in addition to the community center and food bank projects.
Wyatt said, to make it interesting, he mixed up the groups each day in order to have different people working together each day. "I flip-flopped the roster to build camaraderie amongst the volunteers," he said. "Hopefully some of the relationships formed will extend beyond the mission. Some of these kids go to the same school, but don’t really know each other that well. I think I witnessed a lot of friendships being formed throughout the week."
Wyatt said, despite the long, hot days, the mood amongst the volunteers was upbeat. He added that the volunteer work included spending time with the residents, many of whom were elderly, which he got a lot of good feedback about.
Among the many tasks the group was faced with were: yard work, debris removable including an old shed that had fallen down, mowing lawns, building two porches and attaching them to existing steps on two mobile homes, pressure washing and painting.
"The week went better than we could’ve imagined," said RHUMC Youth Minister Kristin Smith. "As the week went on, the projects grew. Going into these homes, we discovered more and more damage that needed to be fixed. Since we had the labor, we kept going. Many people stepped up and went above and beyond the call, and many relationships were formed."
Smith said she is going to encourage future collaborations between her youth group and Helping Hands. She said she is going to challenge her kids to participate in the HH’s "Super Saturday" community service projects.
Wyatt said it was during one of the past "Super Saturdays" that he become exposed to Helping Hands and he plans to get involved in assisting the coordination of a consistent quarterly schedule for the projects.
"We received several applications through out the week while being out in the community, so we know our project list just grew," said Smith.
Wyatt, Smith and Lane each stressed the importance of donations, both corporate and from individuals, in order to keep these projects running. They said they have an outstanding bill accumulated from supplies purchased this past week and there is also a need for funds to create future projects.
To volunteer your services or supplies to Helping Hands of Bryan County, call Lane at 308-7635. If you would like to make a financial contribution to the cause, contact Nevin Patton at the Richmond Hill branch of First Bank.