At Love Advertising, we are all encouraged to participate in community and charitable activities through our program called Love Matters. It means a lot to me to work for a company that cares about giving back just as much as I do.
This July, I was fortunate enough to go on the same week-long vacation I’ve been going on for the past 11 years. Hawaii? No. Florida? No. A cruise? No. I got to spend a week in the sun in east Texas with a bunch of high school kids (No, I’m not crazy ) building things and helping people in need.
United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth (or UM ARMY) is an organization that was started within the Methodist church over 30 years ago in Athens, TX. A local church decided they would forgo their mission trip to another state and use the money they saved to help people closer to home. Since then, high school students (and the adults who lead them) contribute a week of their summer to help those who are physically incapable of, or financially unable to, help themselves. Volunteers do everything from painting, repairing window screens, replacing siding and installing doors, to building porches, stairs and wheelchair ramps.
Participating in this organization has been a tradition for my dad and me since my junior year of high school and has since turned into a family affair with my mother and brother joining us. I was able to grow through the program as a youth, continue as a college helper, and finally, begin leading my own group of four high school students for the week. This was my fifth year to lead my own group and, I have to say, watching the look on the kids’ faces when they find out I’m the one who will be leading them for the week is priceless. I don’t exactly come across as Bob the Builder, but as soon as we get to our work site, I have a blast proving them wrong.
This year we had the blessing to serve in Livingston, TX and work for Mrs. Aretha White. No, she couldn’t sing, but she was sweet as she could be and she had the biggest, fattest chickens I’ve ever seen in my life. This picture really doesn’t do it justice.
My team couldn’t have been harder workers. Together, we built Mrs. Aretha a ramp so that she could maneuver her electric wheelchair in and out of her house for the first time, and we also made new window screens and replaced her window frames.
She was so appreciative and I know that we were able to do something that will forever touch her life. My favorite part of the week is always Thursday night dinner when all of our clients gather with us at the host church where we also stay to worship and enjoy fellowship together. This year’s theme was vintage prom, hence the crown and sash – Aretha made me wear the crown!
Over the span of five days, our camp was able to:
- Serve 39 clients in 5 cities
- Build 11 wheelchair ramps spanning more than 325 feet
- Repair 4 wheelchair ramps spanning more than 110 feet
- Build 8 porches, 8 sets of stairs and 14 pairs of handrails
- Replace 7 windows and repair 7 window screens
- Repair or replace 5 doors
- Repair siding on 5 houses
- Patch 4 roofs
- Paint 3 houses
- Repair 2 floors
- Conduct 23 yard improvement activities
- Work 1,328 days or 6,640 hours worth of labor
- Complete 137 individual projects
- Provide $106,572 worth of labor to the community
It was a long, hot, tiring week, but you can be sure you will find me doing this very same thing next summer for my 12th year in row!