First Church assists community with home improvement projects

D. EVERETT SMITH/Sun-Gazette Correspondent

For the past week, it was not uncommon to see a simple red sign that said “God’s Servants At Work” stuck into the lawns of certain homes throughout the city and in other parts of Lycoming County.

These signs signified that volunteers associated with the First United Methodist Church of Williamsport, on Market Street, were out and about helping, repairing, repainting and assisting with lawn-related issues for individuals who could use a hand. The week of service is called “Transform” and, according to Associate Pastor Rick Waters, the church has been doing it for several years.

“We consider Williamsport our prime mission field and we want to share the love of Christ here in Williamsport,” Waters said.

Transform was a “local mission experience where (volunteers) work on various homes and projects for those in need in our community. It’s a way to reach out and build relationships based on the love and example of Christ,” members of the church said.

Waters explained that a great deal of planning goes into the week, such as finding people who are in need of assistance. The church receives information from STEP, Sojourner Truth Ministries, the Expectations Women’s Center, American Rescue Workers, the West End Christian Center (WECC) and other non-profit groups about homeowners and individuals in need.

“We have a leadership team that looks at all the properties and make sure this is something we can do,” Waters said.

He added that some jobs could go beyond the means of simple carpentry, landscaping or painting, so the leadership team will help determine where the volunteers will be the most effective.

“We have had 150 volunteers helping out,” Waters said, adding that while most of the volunteers are local and from First Church, some other helpers come from other churches and come as far away as Harrisburg.

Craig Netzley, of Montoursville, who was trimming bushes for a home on Woodland Avenue at the start of the week, said he wanted to help because, “as a Christian, you have to give back.”

He was giving back at this particular house because the owner was disabled and unable to paint the home’s wheelchair ramp. He then noticed that the bushes needed trimming, so Netzley, along with another group of missionary volunteers, took on the job.

“(The homeowners) love it and really appreciate our help,” Netzley said.

An Isabella Street homeowner proved Netzley’s sentiment, expressing his gratitude for their assistance.

“I don’t know what we would have done without them,” Mike Gustafson said. “The floor boards of the back porch were in disrepair and I was unable to fix it because I’m on disability.”

The Transform Week was not only a chance for volunteers to connect with the community, but for families to connect together. For example, Curt Wolfhope and his son, Braden, worked on Gustafson’s back porch.

Wolfhope said he was thrilled that he not only was able to teach his son how to work with tools, but how to share the love of Christ with other members of Williamsport.

Braden Wolfhope said he was enjoying himself and glad to be able to work with his father.

“It’s been fun and I had been wanting to do this for years,” Braden Wolfhope said. He explained that he had been working with the Kid’s Edition of the Transform Week in previous years and this was his chance to step up and out into the local mission field.

Waters said the Kids Edition of the Transform week, that Braden Wolfhope had participated in in recent years, was a chance to give kids a taste of missionary work.

“(During the week), the Kids Edition will meet in the Life Center and learn about missionary work, while their parents go out on a job. We have kids up to fifth grade helping and they do projects which are age-appropriate for them,” Waters said.

He explained that the kids will make cards and letters with encouraging messages to be placed into backpacks filled with food which go home with school students.

“We are able to show the kids they are able to do something positive in this world and be helpful,” Waters said, adding about 50 kids participated this year.

Waters said, because of this week, both volunteers and members of the community are able to not only see the heart of the First United Methodist Church, but the heart of God as well.

“Our purpose is to see people transformed in Christ’s love and for us to be in connection with those people; to learn about what is happening in the culture and be helpful,” Waters said.

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