This past week, dozens of local people made the Williamsport area their mission field.
Williamsport Mission Week, coordinated by First United Methodist Church of Williamsport, 604 N. Market St., sent about 75 volunteers a day to some 30 projects throughout the week, from fixing up the West End Community Center in Newberry and sweeping the floors at Sojourner Truth Ministries, to putting on roofs and painting door frames for many people who need a hand around the house.
On Tuesday, First Church Youth Pastor Ryan Whisel stood on a porch roof his team had built the day before in South Williamsport. He was learning about his gifts and limitations, tarring and shingling the roof with Doug Lane, Kevin Miller and Dan Dincher.
SARAH DUVALL/Special to the Sun-Gazette
Top: The home of Amy McCarty, which volunteers participating in Williamsport Mission Week painted. Bottom: First Church Youth Pastor Ryan Whisel tars a roof in South Williamsport, with Kevin Miller, left, and Doug Lane looking on. Top inset: Ben Laurenson scrapes paint around a bathtub. Center left inset: Doug Pitt, John Meyer and Greg Keefer paint a ceiling. Right inset: Angie Shifflet paints a ceiling. Bottom left inset: Julie Venema paints at the home of Amy McCarty.
"Apparently when I'm working, I usually stay on the phone all day," Whisel said. "I'm feeling a little disconnected. Word on the street is I'm doing landscaping tomorrow. I don't think they've seen my front yard."
Dincher, a supervisor with Turn Key Contracting, took a week of vacation for Mission Week.
"This is the best time I've had in a long time," he said. "This is just fun."
Mitch Marcello, First Church's director of college and community outreach, said that about 175 total volunteers came out for the week, with some people taking a whole week of vacation and some only having a day or two to spend.
"Lots of times on mission trips, by the middle of the week you hit a wall," Marcello said. "Every day we get a different set of people out - there's a new excitement, a new energy, and you get a group of people who want to get work done."
Preparations for the week began several months ago by signing up volunteers and taking applications for projects. A $10,000 mini-grant from the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania was partially used to fund the week. Marcello said about 50 people or groups applied for help, and that the Mission Week coordinators put a particular emphasis on helping out people who live within a 2-mile radius of the downtown area.
"This week is about being who we want to be," said First Church Pastor Matt Lake. "We serve a God who came among us, so we must go and serve among people. We've been very excited about the response. Some people, this is their first mission experience of any kind. They were people who didn't think they could do something, and something's been found that everyone can do."
Amy McCarty watched volunteers painting over the bright yellow on the trim of her DuBoistown home with a softer cream color.
"Ten years of that color was just too much," McCarty said. "My husband's been gone 13 years and I do my best to keep up. I was coming home yesterday and I almost passed (my house) by. My neighbor said, 'What'd you do to the house?' I said 'I got it cleaned up a little bit.' "