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190 volunteers spent week doing community service work through Mission Serve

June 24, 2011|By MAEGAN CLEARWOOD | maegan.clearwood@herald-mail.com
  • Parker Melton, left, of Lancaster, South Carolina, holds a 2x12" piece of lumber while Andrew Wishon, right, of Hamptonville, North Carolina, makes a cut at 45 E. Antietam St. in Hagerstown Thursday afternoon.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

After a week of sleeping in a classroom crowded with air mattresses and waking up to go to work at 5:15 a.m., 16-year-old Amie Efting has learned the art of using power tools.

"I'm not the best construction worker, so I've learned a lot," she said earlier this week.

Efting, from Wilmington, N.C., is one of 190 volunteers who spent this week doing community service projects in the area. They wrapped up their work Friday and were to head home Saturday.

The church groups work through Mission Serve, a nationwide program that organizes churches for community-service projects.

This is the third year that Harvest Community Church in Martinsburg, W.Va., has participated in Mission Service, said Jake Watts, assistant project coordinator for his church. In past years, about 25 members of his youth group trekked to North Carolina to help communities in need.

This summer, students and leaders from North Carolina and South Carolina were the ones who traveled nine hours for the weeklong event.

"The main mantra that we try to instill is that we're here to share the love of Christ in a practical way," Watts said.

Members of the eight participating churches camped out in classrooms at Saint James School, Watts said. Schools are ideal lodging for service members because volunteers have access to the cafeteria, showers and gym.

"It's really neat. It can get hectic at times, trying to get everyone to know the building," Watts said. "They've been above and beyond in letting us stay here. It's been absolutely incredible."

Among the 17 projects they worked on were building wheelchair ramps, replacing roofs, painting and rebuilding stairs.

Efting was a member of the group that fixed up an apartment at 45 E. Antietam St. She and her fellow workers repainted the interior of the building and rebuilt the back stairs.

 The Community Action Council sponsored the four projects in Hagerstown.

"It gives young people a chance to do good in the community while working with us to provide something to help us keep costs down, which is very difficult today to maintain properties," said Dave Jordan, CAC executive director. "From what I've seen, they've worked very hard this week."

Along with promoting community-service projects, the program facilitates relationships between members of different participating churches.

Each team of workers consists of about seven students and three adults, and only two students from the same parish are allowed on one team.

"The hardest thing is the first day. You don't know anyone except one person on your team, but by the end of the next day, you've made three friends," Watts said.

The volunteers worked from about 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. When they returned to Saint James, students squeezed in shower time between dinner, worship, and lights-out at 11 p.m.

"The term we use is ‘beautiful exhaustion.' It's a good feeling," said Carly Pumphrey, an adult volunteer from Harvest Community Church. "It's a tight shift we run here. When I say lights out, they say, ‘Yes, ma'am,' and they're asleep."

On Wednesday, the church groups had a free day to take advantage of area attractions, including Hershey Park, Six Flags and the Washington D.C. monuments.

Watts said he hopes the program will continue next summer.

"We don't know what people are going through, all we know is there is a need. The kids see there's a need, and they're willing to help out and share the love of Christ with whoever will listen," Watts said.

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