Volunteers help with a home improvement project on Fairview Avenue. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT — For more than three decades, First Broad Street United Methodist Church has organized missions to Johns Island, S.C.
Church partners in that area have this week sent their own mission team to help out with First Broad Street's local Carpenter's Helper Ministry, which has been providing home repairs for 33 years.
The visitors are adding a wheelchair ramp to a Kingsport man's home and will also be adding vinyl siding and other improvements.
The 14-member team working Wednesday included two high school students and two college students, with additional support coming from several people in the community and the man's family.
Visiting volunteers are from St. John's Parish, at Johns Island, and Rockville Presbyterian Church (EPC), at Wadmalaw Island.
Emma Gervais, of Johns Island, said she loves doing the work — and spending time with individuals and families being helped.
Gervais said the partnerships between the churches' mission programs, and the interaction between the volunteers and the people being served, show how God creates loving relationships between people — even across long distances.
Thom Pennington, of Wadmalaw Island, said FBSUMC folks have for years regularly visited Johns Island.
"We decided it was time for us to pack up a team and come up to Kingsport and see what we can do to help," Pennington said.
Danny Howe is director of missions at First Broad Street.
Howe said the church started its home repair ministry in 1987, and it continues to be a vital, year-round program, with most of the work coming from volunteers within its own congregation as well as other local churches.
Occasionally, Howe said, there are visitors like those this week from South Carolina.
"These folks are no strangers to us," Howe said. "They wanted to come and see what we do here."
The project under way this week highlights another key partnership of the church's home repair ministry, Howe said.
"This particular project is also one that fits within the partnership between the Carpenter's Helpers Ministry at First Broad Street and the city of Kingsport's rehabilitation program. We've been in partnership for about six years ... working together to do home repairs for low-income residents. It's been very successful in making resources available to our volunteers and the volunteers being able to accomplish the work without the cost of labor." It's been a wonderful opportunity for us. (Kingsport Mayor) Dennis Phillips came to us several years ago (with the idea), and it's been a wonderful relationship since then."