By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Organizers of the Backyard Mission Trip, a one-day local service blitz, were thrilled with the success of last year’s one-day event that saw 166 projects completed by 1,150 volunteers.
This year’s mission trip, scheduled for April 26, is shaping up to be even bigger with a goal of 2,014 volunteers and 201 projects, said Municipal Court Judge Robert Fry, who is again serving as chairman.
“Everybody was talking that evening that we want to be more involved next year,” he said. “We had people who saw us out on the street saying if we would have known about it, we would have gotten involved this year. So it was a fantastic success.”
The spark for the event began three years ago when 125 volunteers from College First Church of God worked on 10 properties through the Findlay Neighborhood Enhancement and Abatement Team. The following year, four more churches got involved as 185 volunteers took on 20 projects.
The mission trip grew even more in 2012 when the Findlay Ministerial Association took over as the sponsoring organization.
“Last year for the first time, we had 12 organizations get involved along with the 27 churches we had expanded to,” said Fry. “So it’s just growing. It is definitely growing. I think it’s starting to take root as a lifestyle in Findlay-Hancock County, Ohio.”
William Reist, senior pastor at College First Church, said there is already a high level of energy in the community about the project.
“We want to say the Backyard Mission Trip is the heart and hands of Jesus,” he said. “It’s a ministry of the congregations in the community. There will certainly be people involved who are not part of any congregation for which we are grateful. But it’s a way of saying, if we’re willing as congregations to go to Timbuktu, we’re at least going to work in the shadow of our own steeple and in our community.”
The deadline for project applications is April 5. Anyone who turns in an application after that date will be placed on a waiting list.
Fry said no job is too small, even changing a light bulb or replacing the battery in a smoke detector.
“That’s what we’re here for,” he said. “Little things all the way to big things.”
Becky Greeno, director of the Neighborhood Enhancement and Abatement Team, said she’s already had several people apply who were recipients last year.
“I had a gal call me today and say, now what all will you do and how much will you charge me? And I said we aren’t going to charge you anything,” she said.
Greeno told her jobs have ranged from roof repair to washing windows.
“She said that’s exactly what I need, light bulbs changed and my mulch changed. She said I can’t do it anymore. … That’s what we’re all about,” Greeno said.
She noted that help is open to anyone who needs it.
“I’ve always referred to it, it’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up, absolutely a hand up,” she said.
The team anticipates that homeowners will pay for needed repairs or supplies. If they’re not able to, however, some monetary donations have been provided by the community to help with the costs.
Volunteers are also being sought. For those who are not physically able to do manual labor, groups of prayer warriors will go out and pray over each of the sites.
Greeno said she received a call recently from a man offering the help of a group. When Greeno asked him who they were affiliated with he told her “We’re not really from anywhere. I guess you could say we’re from the golf course,” she said.
“A group of 10 guys that golf together,” Greeno said. The man told her “We don’t have a lot of talent, but collectively we’ll be fine.”
Reist said there are some projects the volunteers aren’t able to do, but the committee has a good working relationship with Habitat for Humanity.
“And they have some skill sets that our volunteers may not have so we’re able then to work directly with them,” he said.
Fry noted that the landfill and the city’s green waste drop off will be kept open longer that day to help out the project.
“A word of gratitude, both to the county government and city government for saying here’s something happening in the community we want to respond to,” said Reist. “Everybody’s blessed, but people are going out of their way for us to carry through with this.”
The United Way’s Days of Caring will follow the week after the Backyard Mission Trip, he added, noting that there are distinct differences between the two.
“Backyard Mission Trip is one Saturday on private property. The Days of Caring works with not-for-profits so they can’t go onto private property. So we really in a sense supplement each other and work together without overlapping,” he said. “And people will work … perhaps at both sites and both places to benefit the community.”
The night before the mission trip, everyone involved is asked to meet at 7 p.m. at Winebrenner Seminary, 950 N. Main St. The next morning at 7:30 a.m., they will come together for breakfast and final instructions at The Cube, 3430 N. Main St.
To help with security, everyone who is part of the Backyard Mission team will be identified with a special T-shirt.
Teams will then disperse to work on projects, returning to The Cube that evening for dinner and fellowship. Food for the day is being provided by the churches.
“We invite the homeowners or the property owners back to The Cube to share with us their experience and just hear from some of the workers, what they experienced, what they were feeling in terms of doing the work,” said Fry.
The team hopes the event continues for years to come.
“To a certain extent it’s the spiritual community rising up to help the Findlay community itself, but it’s becoming integrated into all aspects, all fabrics of the life in Findlay with all sorts of people being involved in it,” Fry said. “I don’t see why it would not continue.”
For more information, contact Greeno at 419-424-7466.
Wolf: 419-427-8419, Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf
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