“I get way more than I give”
That was the consensus of the over 300 people who spread throughout the county last weekend as part of the eighth annual Mission Blitz, a program spearheaded by King Moravian Church to help the less fortunate in the county.
The program started after a group of youth members returned from doing mission work in the western part of the state.
“When they came back one of the kids asked why don’t we do this here at home,” said Robert Simpson who helps organize the event every year. “We went to social services and asked if they had anyone who needed help.”
The answer was, of course, yes, so the church started planning how they could help.
Last weekend King Moravian Church along with Chestnut Grove United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of King, First Christian Church of King, Rural Hall Moravian Church and Moravian Churches in the North Branch Regional Conference Churches, Trinity United Methodist Church of King, Harvest Temple Church of God and Brims Grove Baptist Church helped over 40 families improve their living conditions in the county.
Work ranged from simply helping the elderly and sick take care of basic house cleaning and yard work to replacing bathrooms, roofs and porches.
“We get referrals from social services and from area churches and Robert gathers all the churches that want to participate in the summer, they all sit down at a table and and figure out who will help who,” said Paula Hall, who also helps to organize the Blitz. “It is living your faith through service and helping those in need. Without Mission Blitz this would not happen for most of these people. The reality is the Department of Social Services do not have the funds or manpower to make this happen.”
Weekend work touches lives
Stacy France, 78, who lives with her mother Emily Duncan, 92, in the Francisco area said they did not know what they would have done if Mission Blitz had not volunteered to replace their porch and bathroom and help fix their roof.
“We have been living here for over 50 years,” said France. “My husband built the porch when we first got the trailer and then he had stroke and he has been in Pioneer Hospital for 15 years. The porch had rotted. We were having trouble helping each other out of the bath tub. It was just the two of us and we could not do anything to fix it ourselves.
“It made me feel wonderful that they came and helped,” she added. “They are so friendly and nice. They act like they have known us all of our lives. I thank God they could help.”
Pauline Nelson, another home owner helped through the Mission Blitz, had a similar story. She is living in a cabin her husband built, but he passed away in 1995 and she had had a hard time keeping the property up since then. Mission Blitz helped clean up parts of the property, installed cabinets and a new oven in her kitchen and helped to update electrical and plumbing in the cabin.
“It was really badly needed,” said Nelson. “They are real sweet people and God blessed me to send them my way.”
Hall said that connection with the people they helped was a key part of the Mission Blitz.
“We have people that just go and sit down and start a relationship with them,” she said. “That starts with our site leaders, they come in and meet with them and ask what they need. There is a lot of faith built just by showing that someone cares about them and wants to help.”
She said each home owner helped is given a loaf of homemade bread and offered a chance to pray with the helpers.
“We are not so busy doing the work the we don’t do our work,” Hall said. “We could come out and roof and plumb and not engage the homeowner, but that is not the work we are called to do. The bigger calling is that we are called to be neighbors.”
Lots of work, but big rewards
Hall said while most of the physical work was done last weekend, pulling off Mission Blitz each year requires about six months of planning. Each of the churches participating do their own fundraising to help pay for the projects and find a variety of contractors, plumbers and electricians to volunteer time providing expertise during the weekend.
“We even started a Go Fund Me page this year,” said Hall. “We might keep that up year round. I had a friend from Moravian Church in Wilmington that saw it and sent a very significant check to the church.
“Lots of people in the community give to make this happen,” she added. “We get lots of in-kind donations and we also get discounts when we buy supplies.”
She said the Stokes County Arts Council had even gotten involved this year after learning that one of the people being helped was an artist in the Walnut Cove area facing some serious health problems.
“We are supplying the paint and primer to repaint his house and the labor is being supplied by the churches,” said Arts Council Director Eddy McGee. “It is a great thing. It is an artist in need that we are able to help. This is our initiation into Mission Blitz and we are just glad to step up.”
Simpson said many local businesses had a similar response.
“There are so many business that help us,” he said. “A lot of the building places will cut us a deal. There is a used appliance place in King that helps us get appliances for people. There are a lot of general contractors from throughout the county that help us.”
He said even with all the help, the Mission Blitz still costs a lot to put on.
“Our church alone will probably spend around $10,000,” said Simpson. “All that has been raised by members in the past month and half.”
But all the time and money is well worth it, not just for the homeowners who are helped, but for the volunteers as well.
“When people finish the day they are tired, sore, blistered and they always say it felt good and want to come back and do it again,” said Hall.
“This is a vacation to me,” agreed Jeff Robertson, a general contractor helping at one of the sites on Friday. “This is fun. When we walk out it is just a pleasure to see these people’s faces and know you did something to help them. We can do so much to help so many people in our county.
“You are doing it because God blessed you with a talent,” he added. “He gave me a talent and I am just sharing that.”
“I am here to help others,” agreed Scot Height, who drove up to Stokes County from South Carolina just to help in the Mission Blitz. “We are helping these ladies who could not do any of the things we are doing.”
Hall said that she and many others participants also experienced spiritual growth through helping.
“When I am in church it is a direct relationship with God, but when I am out here serving I am taking what I receive and sharing it with other people,” she said. “I get the opportunity to out and share that faith with other people who are not sitting with me on the pew.”
She said while volunteers ranged in age and denomination they each got something out of it.
“Going in to the homes that don’t look like yours, it is a real world environment, especially for the kids,” she said, “for them to go into someone’s house that may not have electricity or running water. To go in without judgment and serve is very humbling.
“When you see kids having to sleep on the floor and the mom having to cook the meals on a portable grill outside, that gives you a different perspective,” she added.
“When you are out helping at a job site, there is no denomination,” agreed Simpson. “It is just people with the same belief that you need to help someone. I think most people want to help, they just don’t know how. This gives the opportunity for people to do that. If you don’t know how to swing a hammer, you can still come and visit with them, you can fix breakfast or lunch, you can clean, you can carry boards. There is something that everyone can do.”
Need is still great
Hall said that while the volunteers were happy to have helped the people they could over the weekend, there were still many residents in the county, and surrounding counties, that were in need of help.
“We really need this year round,” she said, noting that she used to work with the county health department and was constantly amazed at how many people in the county are living in bad conditions. “There are lots of homes where kids don’t even have beds to sleep in. These are kids in our public schools right here in this county.”
Volunteer Marion Smith agreed.
“My only mission experience before this was in Honduras,” she said. “I have seen things that are as desperate here in Stokes County as anything I saw there. Given the need in Stokes County, we could probably do this once a month if we could afford to do it.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.