Church’s summer work camp brings fresh look to three local homes
As she applied a fresh coat of sea green paint to the siding of an almost 70-year-old home in downtown Ellijay last Wednesday, Megan Wilson didn’t mind giving up almost a week of her summer to help a stranger.
“(One of the people we painted for) Monday got emotional just talking about it and we hadn’t even begun to work yet,” said Wilson, 18. “That makes it all worth it, just knowing we’re making an impact on people in our community. Giving up four days really isn’t that much.”
Importance of selfless service
Wilson was one of 65 teens and adults who helped landscape yards and paint three Gilmer County homes as part of last week’s Impact Work Camp, a combination summer camp and community service project in its second year of service.
“It was in Columbus last year. This year it’s in Ellijay. Next year it will be in Augusta,” said Jeremy Green, pulpit minister at the Ellijay Church of Christ.
The project brought young people and adults involved with youth groups at Churches of Christ in Valdosta, Augusta, Rome, Columbus and Ellijay together to accomplish the home improvement work.
“Most of the work is for low income families or elderly folks who can’t do it themselves,” said Andrew Thompson, a youth minister at Rose Hill Church of Christ in Columbus.
Green said one of the main goals of the outreach ministry project, overseen here by the Ellijay Church of Christ, was to show the young campgoers how much can be accomplished by setting aside a portion of their summer break to labor selflessly for others.
“We get together in the morning at 8 a.m. for breakfast, go out and work through the day till 3 p.m., then get together in the evening a for a meal and a devotional. It’s good for the kids because they learn how to work and be involved. It also shows the community that the church is alive and working and willing to reach out with some hard work to help those in need,” said Green.
For Wilson, a 2016 Gilmer High graduate, the camp provided an opportunity to do something good in her hometown before leaving for college to study nursing.
“I thought it was something cool to do before I go to Arkansas. It let me have one last impression of Gilmer County before I leave,” she said.
As she chatted with the church members who took up brushes, buckets and ladders to paint the outside of her downtown home, Bea McClure said she found out about the outreach work through a visit to the North Georgia Community Action Center. The nonprofit provides various types of assistance to families and elderly residents in 10 north Georgia counties.
“I’m so appreciative of what they’ve done for me. I’m so proud of those kids. They’ve worked really hard,” said McClure, who’s ministered weekly to female inmates at the Gilmer Detention Center for the past 25 years.
“I was 38 years old when I started going to church,” said McClure, 65. “I always thought I’d be teaching Sunday school, but they opened up the jail back when Billy Bernhardt was the sheriff and we started going in. I’ve been going on Tuesday ever since.”
Two other residences in Cherry Log and the Craigtown Road area of Ellijay were also painted and maintained.
“We do yard work – weedeating, cutting grass and getting rid of small limbs. Then we scrape the old paint off and repaint (each) house,” said Green. “We try to do what the owners would like done if they had professional painters come in and do it. We’re not professionals, but we make sure to do a good job.”
So God is glorified
Money to buy paint and other supplies came from camp fees paid by the teens, as well as donations from church funds.
“We try to save a penny everywhere we can. We did get some things at cost,” said Green, who thanked D. Decker Painting of Canton, Sherwin-Williams of Ellijay, and Ace Hardware of Blue Ridge for helping camp organizers acquire supplies.
“(The visiting campers) stayed in the homes of members of the Ellijay church. The church’s care groups provided food throughout the week,” he added.
The camp was “centered around reaching up to God, reaching into the church, reaching out to the community and stepping outside of our comfort zones,” Green said.
“We don’t ever do anything (like this) for credit. We tell (the kids) it’s so God can be glorified, which gives them a sense of purpose and helps motivate them. It instills a strong work ethic in the next generation of community leaders,” he said of those who endured the sweltering summer temperatures.
The appreciation shown by the individuals and families helped during last year’s inaugural work camp made such an impact on Green’s dad, the Columbus resident came to Ellijay last week to help here.
“My son came down and got me,” said Jerry Green. “We painted four houses last year and got a very good reaction. Most of the people were elderly and some of them were in tears (because they were so happy).”
McClure, who has no plans to give up her regular Tuesday night commitment, considers the new coat of paint a gift from God.
“This may be his way of paying me back for those 25 years,” she said.