Block party at Sixth Street church kicks off volunteer effort

Free food brought many to a block party on Sixth Street Monday night, but a bustling sense of fellowship kept them around.

“It’s great a time for families to gather where there won’t be any problems,” said South Williamsport woman Carol Brown about the party that kicked off an initiative of the First United Methodist Church known as Transform Williamsport Week.

Monday was the start of a week-long volunteer effort by the church and many others, such as the Christian Church at Cogan Station, to help repair homes and buildings in the city and surrounding areas.

“It gives us the opportunity to see our faith at work,” said Mitch Marcello, director of outreach at the church. “And to share the love of Jesus Christ.”

The initiative began last year, under a different name and with considerably less manpower.

Marcello said about 300 volunteers from 22 churches this week will work on several projects in the community, one of which includes renovating the basement of the American Rescue Workers Community Church on Ross Street to increase its capacity.

“The extra space will provide for more opportunities for after school and youth programming,” Marcello said.

Preparations for this week began in January, according to Marcello.

Early work included recruiting volunteers and reaching out to individuals in need by going door-to-door, among other methods of outreach. Contractors were then sent to the locations to determine the type of work to be done and how many volunteers it would take to complete it.

“By doing this, we really get to know the people in our community and show them we really do care,” Marcello said.

Matt Lake, pastor of First United Methodist Church, said the main goal of the project is to build relationships.

“It’s so easy to be divided, and this is a simple opportunity to come together,” he said of the block party, which featured hamburgers and hot dogs, Italian ice, music, information tables, basketball, face painting and a balloon station.

“It was time well-spent,” said Sean Walker, the Williamsport native and seasoned planner who organized the event, which drew a large, diverse crowd. “Really it’s just about building relationships in the community.”