WEDDINGTON – In 2010, the members of Weddington United Methodist decided they weren’t content to just give money to missions organizations and local outreach agencies. So, in an effort to reach out to the community, they started a summer Great Week of Service.
Two years later, the project is going strong as the church reaches out to 12 different organizations and agencies through what is now the third annual Great Week of Service. The outreach endeavor has taken place over the course of this week, beginning Monday, Aug. 6, and will wrap up Saturday, Aug. 11.
The Rev. Erin Yow, associate pastor of evangelism and mission, said the project fits right in with the church’s calling to serve the community. “This is just something we do because it’s what we believe as Christians,” Yow said. “We have a desire for missions and wanted to get experience with local missions.”
The project is reaching out to the Charlotte Rescue Mission, Charlotte Crisis Assistance Ministry, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Habitat ReStore on North Wendover Road in Charlotte, the Ronald McDonald House, House of Pearls and Restoration House, Turning Point’s Second Chance Boutique, the White Oak nursing home, JAARS, Samaritan’s Feet Warehouse, Love INC and the Urban Ministry Center.
On weekdays, the church does two to three projects throughout the day and into the evening, including serving food at the Charlotte Rescue Mission, muffin making for the Charlotte Crisis Assistance Ministry, crafts at the Ronald McDonald House, sorting and preparing shoe donations at the Samaritan’s Feet Warehouse and more.
On Saturday, the church does five different projects throughout the day, including working with JAARS, building a handicap-accessible ramp for Love INC, sandwich making in the church fellowship hall, providing and serving drinks at the Urban Ministry Center and holding worship at the White Oak nursing home.
The week of service has experienced modest growth since it was established. In 2010, the project saw about 120 volunteers, and Yow expects to see at least 150 volunteers this year. “There’s a little more participation, a little more excitement in the church because we’ve done it a couple times before,” she said.
In the past Yow has been involved in many of the different service opportunities, but being 33 weeks pregnant, she’s primarily overseeing the endeavor and relying on volunteers to head up the project. Mary Kos is one of those volunteers who’ve stepped up to the plate to tackle some of the leadership aspects of the week.
Although being a leader adds a little more pressure to the activities, Kos works to project a positive image to both the people she’s leading and the agencies they’re serving, and to let people know that everything will work out in the end.
“Deep down, you know that it’s always going to be OK. You’re not worried that it’s not going to get done,” Kos said. “Serving food to people is one of my (favorite missions). It just always works out, even when you think you don’t have enough food, even though it could mess up, I know it’s not going to.”
Although it’s sometimes hard to get people to commit to volunteering during the summer because of vacations, Yow has found summer to be the most opportune time to host the service project.
“There are lot of families in church that want to have missions (projects) where they can participate as a family,” she said. “I found out if we do it at this time of year, I can catch some of those people, mostly moms, that are still at home with their children, so they can participate whereas if we did it another time of the year it would be harder.”
Like any missions endeavor, the church has experienced a few bumps in the road for this year’s week of service, and flexibility has been everyone’s motto for the project. But in spite of the few unexpected twists, Yow has been very pleased with how the week has gone so far. “Things have been working out well,” she said. “Everything people say is that it’s been a positive, good experience.”
Having already completed one service project, Kos agrees the week so far has been uplifting, and has already experienced the joy of volunteering. “All I can say for that is when I get a chance to volunteer, I’m very happy,” she said. “I’m excited before I go, I’m excited when I’m there and I come home and that ‘happy high’ just kind of lasts, you know, the euphoria of it.
It lasts for longer than just while I’m there. It’s just a really positive feeling.”
Yow hopes volunteers will learn the importance of reaching out to the community and how they can be blessed in return. “A lot of people go out to do missions and think they’re going to change people or make them better, but more often it’s our hearts that are changed,” she said. “When we go out and realize there are people in need, it makes us realize how fortunate we are.”
Josh Whitener, firstname.lastname@example.org