Dick and Peg Owen took several mission trips to Johns Island, S.C., with others from First Broad Street United Methodist Church. The couple, both now deceased, recognized that there were people in their own community who struggled as much as those elsewhere.
“It was a vision of the church to address the issue of substandard housing in Kingsport,” explained Danny Howe, missions director at FBSUMC.
With the Owens’ vision and the interest of those who had volunteered at Johns Island, Carpenter’s Helpers was born in April 1987.
“It started out as a home repair ministry,” Howe said. “Our first project was a roof in Bloomingdale.”
Shortly after this program began, the ministry expanded to include a furniture ministry and a firewood ministry.
In 25 years, Carpenter’s Helpers has repaired 524 homes (by painting, adding wheelchair ramps, building new roofs, doing floor repairs and adding rooms); made more than 4,700 furniture deliveries; delivered more than 5,200 loads of firewood to an average of 52 homes per year; and has offered ministry opportunities to several thousand members of the First Broad congregation as well as to community and missions teams from other areas.
Carpenter’s Helpers home repair ministry is designed to assist community homeowners in making home repairs needed for basic warm and dry living conditions. Efforts are focused on those financially and physically unable to do repairs themselves. Many repairs are made in partnership with other churches and the city of Kingsport.
“With this ministry, we used to do some fairly major projects,” Howe said. “As some of those volunteers have aged and moved on, we’ve had to back off.”
Five years ago, a partnership was formed between the church and the city, with grant money made available to subsidize the church budget for that ministry.
“We’re meeting the most critical need in a more effective way,” he said.
Through an application process, it’s not hard for the volunteers to tell what the biggest needs are.
“We try to address everything that comes to us as timely as we can,” he said.
Shortly after Carpenter’s Helpers got started, the church added two more ministries — furniture and firewood — more ideas taken from the work at Johns Island.
“We had done some reallocation of used furniture on the sea island,” Howe said. “There were also folks on the island who heated with firewood in the winter. We found families in Kingsport who heated with wood. The resources were available. It’s a ministry the congregation can get excited about.”
With the furniture ministry, furniture and appliances are donated and stored to be delivered to families who are not financially able to buy the needed items. The firewood ministry provides wood for those who cannot physically obtain it for themselves and cannot afford to buy it.
Volunteers from First Broad Street are joined in these ministries by people from Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church, Colonial Heights United Methodist Church and St. Mark United Methodist Church.
Howe was a missionary at Johns Island when Carpenter’s Helpers was started 25 years ago.
“I never really doubted it would work because this congregation had always tasted the fruit of being involved in people’s lives,” he said. “It’s helped the church establish its DNA of being mission-minded. It’s teaching the congregation that missions is a lifestyle, not an event. It helps us live into our theology.”
Carpenter’s Helpers furniture ministry is coordinated by Patricia Fansler, while Jim Hale heads the firewood ministry. Foy McIntosh coordinates the home repairs , and Bill Campbell is a lay connection to all the ministries.
“Every day of the week we have people on the street with this ministry, face-to-face with people who have needs,” Howe said.
The week of June 25, the church will again partner with the city for its annual City Build, a blitz week of home repair using church members and community volunteers.
Anyone interested in volunteering with the Carpenter’s Helpers ministries or during City Build should call the missions office at 224-1531.
comments powered by Disqus