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Churches, volunteers join hands to ‘transform’ Jersey Shore community

Transform Jersey Shore consists of a group of people on a mission, and in more ways than one.

The organization has worked to rebuild the Jersey Shore community, one handicap ramp and a shared meal at a time, since 2015. Although the group had to take a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, it spent the past week completing 21 out of 28 submitted projects.

“We couldn’t go out and do face-to-face work,” said Phil Courtright, a leader with Transform Jersey Shore. “It’s a little tense this year, but we managed to complete it with everyone being vaccinated.”

The ecumenical mission consists of all volunteers; no one involved is paid. It earns the money for projects through fundraisers and donations, and spends those funds only on qualified projects within the Jersey Shore region, he said.

“Transform Jersey Shore is based on the concept of doing a local missionary project. Let’s help those in our community who are in need,” he said.

The work is free for homeowners. The budget for materials and food is generally around $28,000 each year, and the labor is all voluntary — no one is paid, Courtright said.

“The entire mission project is based on the generosity of the community. Without it, this would not occur,” he said. “Funds donated to the Transform cause are used only for the Transform cause. It all goes toward benefiting those in need, 100%.”

Wheelchair ramps, safety rails, rebuilding or painting porches and decks, and minor roof repairs are among the many tasks with which TJS aims to help homeowners. If a project requires a permit, the organization handles that process as well.

The mission also installs smoke alarms with 10-year battery life, provided by the Red Cross.

“It’s not one house, one smoke alarm; it’s wherever the smoke alarms are needed,” he said

Projects come from homeowner applicants, and TJS focuses particularly on those who are elderly, injured or differently abled, or otherwise unable to do necessary work themselves — “people who are in need of help,” Courtright said.

And that help comes “through the churches, through the worship, through the Christian community,” he said.

But TJS does not proselytize, he added.

“As an ecumenical project, we don’t go throughout the community with a Bible to beat on people’s heads,” Courtright said. “We’re there to lift their spirits.”

The mission is built of a community of at least 15 churches, with Trinity Episcopal in Jersey Shore acting as home base.

“It’s not one denomination, one church. It’s many denominations, many churches coming together for one goal,” Courtright said. “We all work together.”

After spending a week — typically the first week in August — completing as many projects as possible and enjoying lunches between volunteers and homeowners alike, everyone is invited to a celebratory dinner. A slideshow encapsulates the work put in, and shows before and after shots of many projects.

“It brightens the outlook for the people who are in hardship,” Courtright said.

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