With disinfectant wipes and mops in hand, the Impact JC team tackled each task on the “honey-do” list at The River Ministry for Women. Similar good deeds were accomplished throughout the city Saturday in an effort to “rethink church.”
Impact JC is part of a nationwide movement by the United Methodist Church to encourage people of all backgrounds to come together and complete community projects. In its second year, Impact JC had more than 300 people pre-register to help out at 14 available locations, including The River, 125 W. Main St.
“The reason we’re here is to take the church out of church and we’re going out in Washington County and doing whatever we can wherever there’s a need,” said Steve Flack, who helped tiller the garden behind The River.
Fellow Cherokee United Methodist Church member Nancy Renfro spent Saturday afternoon pulling weeds from The River’s flower garden, a task that she says doesn’t even happen at her own home.
“It takes your mind off your own problems and you think about what’s going on in other people’s lives,” she said. “When they dig up that garden and plant in the spring, I’ll know that I helped them do that.”
Inside, a group of women worked quickly to wipe down toys, clean the kitchen and mop the floors with the goal of giving The River a good deep clean to keep its visitors healthy in the fall and winter.
“The volunteers do good during the week, but to have hard core cleaning going on is a real blessing,” said Stacy Larsen, director of The River.
Exchanging a day of relaxation for a work day at a place some of the volunteers had never been to is what Impact JC is all about.
“There was a lot of surprised faces when they came in and saw exactly what the river had to offer to the women of the community,” said Kristie Hicks, the Impact JC site coordinator at The River. “They just thought it was laundry service.
“This facility is phenomenal. The ministry that they provide for women in need in this area is amazing and that’s what made us want to give back to them for what they’re giving to the community.”
A few hours of work was all it took for Renfro to connect with the women’s ministry that offers a number of services like laundry, a shower, daily devotions, classes, a choir and free hair cut days.
“It’s not a place that I knew about or would have went on my own and now I can go talk to people and tell them about a neat agency that needs us,” she said.
Renfro and Hicks both said they chose to work at The River when its choir sang at Cherokee UMC last Christmas. Flack said he was asked to come join the team working at The River, but thought they were literally going to a river to work. But once someone put a tiller in his hand, he had a good time.
Other Impact JC volunteers from Munsey UMC, First UMC, Wesley UMC, Fairhaven UMC and Johnson City Cooperative Parish worked at Habitat for Humanity, Rise Up, Interfaith Hospitality Day Center and Coalition for Kids.
“They’re putting their faith into action, just like Jesus told us to,” Larsen said.
There was plenty of publicity leading up to Impact JC in the form of billboards, advertisements and a website. Hicks said she would love to see the movement get more attention each year.
And maybe their message will get people thinking, too.
“Hopefully people will see us out today (Saturday) in our bright red shirts and outside doing things for other people and they will think ‘Wow there’s other people out there in the community helping others,’ ” Renfro said. “And maybe it will spur them to think about helping because this a great community.”