Three hundred middle and high school students from across the country are at Milligan College this week learning to be better leaders in their home communities through a service blitz in the greater Johnson City area.
Visiting students taking part in the national Christ in Youth program’s “Engage: Service” project set to work Tuesday on 18 service projects at nonprofit agencies and private homes in need throughout the community. Another 300 students will arrive at Milligan next week to continue the work
In the Johnson City Housing Authority’s Memorial Park neighborhood, a team of young volunteers from Covenant Church United Methodist in High Point, N.C., spent Tuesday moving a chain link fence and setting posts for an expansion that will double the size of the greenhouse the Housing Authority uses to supply flowers for the grounds of its eight housing developments.
“It’s hard work digging those holes because they have to be two-feet deep,” 11-year-old Kathryn Trost said as she assessed the progress of the concrete drying at the base of the posts.
“It was really hard getting those old (fence) poles out because they had concrete around them too. We dug out all around them then tried to get a shovel
around them and pulled them out. It’s harder than it sounds. When we got those got out, we broke the concrete off of them with sledge hammers.”
Considering the difficulty, it was good Covenant brought a brought a team of 15 middle school students, its youth pastor and two adult youth leaders to help with the15-foot-by-16-foot greenhouse expansion while another crew of student servants from Covenant spent the day moving another fence at Memorial Park.
“They’ve got to learn to do this because right now everything is about self ... texting or doing other things that are all about them. But everything is not about them so we’re here teaching them to serve others,” Covenant Youth Leader Robin Coggins said. “Their lesson for this week is to love everybody, no matter where they are.”
“Today we’ve been setting the posts and squaring them up and we’ll start putting the boards up shortly,” JCHA Landscape Engineer Randy Littleton said Tuesday as the greenhouse expansion began taking shape. “They’ve been running drills and an auger to round out the holes. And they’ve got their youth leader on the (power) saw.
“They’re painting a lot of apartments inside today, too. Next week they’ll be pressure washing all the vinyl siding and gutters on everything at Parkway and Memorial Park. And we’ll have them cleaning out fence rows and trimming hedges for us.
“A lot of the stuff they do is stuff we don’t have time to get to that needs to be done. They’re helping us catch up, in other words, and its helps us quite a bit.”
Through its partnership with churches like Covenant, colleges like Milligan and service organizations like those in Johnson City, the annual Engage: Service program connects students to communities nationwide and helps meet specific needs in each community the students visit. At night the students stay on college campuses where they interact with other students in nightly programming and ageappropriate worship services.
Locally, the students here return to Milligan for special programming, music and services led by Pastor Chad Mosteller of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky.
By the end of next week they will have completed the greenhouse at Memorial Park, a new brick patio and bonfire pit at the city’s Rise Up after-school and youth-mentoring center, and a dozen other jobs from the to-do lists at the Housing Authority, Rise Up, Coalition for Kids, Winged Deer Park, other municipal facilities and at the East Tennessee Christian Home for Children in Elizabethton.
Much less publicly the students also will be working at nine private homes to help families and individuals with work they cannot accomplish on their own.