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Community members lend a helping hand

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Judy Rivers has an easier time using her rolling walker, from her one-story McDonough home, to her front yard, now that a group of church volunteers have built her a 25-foot wheelchair ramp.

The same group of volunteers removed a dying tree from senior Hester Collins' yard, cleaned the yard, and spruced it up with straw beds, where weeds once stood.

The endeavor was part of the annual "Many Hearts, Many Hands" campaign Saturday, spearheaded by the McDonough First United Methodist Church, and Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. Volunteers from the two churches, along with students from Union Grove High School, and local Girl Scouts, targeted 34 locations, including the homes of senior citizens, for community service projects reaching out to those in need.

"Both churches had a vision to partner, and sponsor this event last year, as a way to reach out to those families and ministries in our community," said Mike Broome, associate pastor for McDonough First United Methodist.

"We also used this as an opportunity to encourage our young families and members of all ages and abilities to give up some of their time and serve others in need," he said. "This event has been a wonderful blessing for both church families, and given us great cause for celebration in working together across ethnic and cultural barriers, while also seeking to share God's love and mercy with those in need."

Some volunteers are still helping out this week.

Wesley Chapel members Brian Settles, a retired airlines pilot, and businessman Terry McMillian, were still working on repairing a leak from a kitchen sink, and the damage it caused, at the home of Betty and Willie Rogers.

"They are still working on [the] couple's sink this week," said Scott Mahone, of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. "They replaced drain pipe, and they had some drawers custom made, to fit the cabinet where the [others] were damaged by the leak."

The number of volunteers grew from 325 last year to about 450 this year, said group organizer Kim Brown, of Wesley Chapel UMC.

Her role included visiting each site to ensure the work went smoothly.

The Girl Scouts helped to plant flowers, lay down pine straw, and help bring up Christmas items from the basement of A Friend's House, a home for children in crisis, said Brown.

Volunteers helped with landscaping at both churches, brought hygiene kits to McDonough Elementary School, and brought breakfast and lunch to employees at the McDonough police and fire departments, as well as the Henry County Sheriff's Department, she said.

Other volunteers sorted food at Helping in His Name Ministries food pantry, and collected more than 200 cans of chili through a canned chili drive for the pantry, added Brown.

"We had such an incredible time doing this in 2009, that we knew we wanted to make this a tradition for both churches," he added. "It is amazing that even in these economic times, with so many companies struggling, and so many families lacking resources, we have companies that are still willing to donate, sometimes at cost and other times free, to make this event possible, and so many skilled members who are willing to give of their time and resources."