February's snow impacts Bowie church's charity work
Students will be in school instead of helping build house in W.Va.
Old Man Winter has messed up the summer outreach plans for Christian Community Presbyterian Church, says member Deborah Sell.
Sell, chair of the church's mission outreach program, says the Bowie congregation committed last summer to building a whole house in Franklin, W. Va., with the Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity franchise. Because of this year's heavy snowfall, however, church youth most likely will still be in school during the scheduled trip. Now the church seeks area volunteers to pitch in.
"We've opened the trip to anyone who's willing to go and follow directions," Sell said. Trained personnel will show volunteers how to paint and complete basic construction.
Although members of all ages participate in these mission trips, the church actively targets middle- and high-school students to help teens step up to new challenges.
"These trips give them an opportunity to work with communities that don't have the resources we do," Sell said.
The church typically plans a trip every other year, alternating between Franklin and Pittsburgh, where the mission team repairs abandoned homes with Hosanna Ministries. Civic associations work with local banks to sell these homes to families, Sell said.
The church planned to complete the "blitz build" in West Virginia from June 13 through 19. As part of the goal, the congregation would have built an entire house within a week. The goal seemed possible because Brian Kesner, a former construction manager with Almost Heaven, belongs to the church, Sell said.
Members now plan to complete a partial build. The church has committed $10,000 to the project and has reached out to other churches to round up volunteers and additional funds. The cost of a partial build is $20,000, as opposed to $40,000 for an entire house, Sell said.
Christian Community had been active in missions work even before Sell and her family joined the congregation in 2000. Two local Bowie nonprofits launched from the church are the Bowie Interfaith Pantry and Emergency Aid Fund and the Bowie Therapeutic Nursery, which assists youth with learning challenges. The church also is working with a group in Honduras to install a water purification system in a village.
Franklin is in a poor, rural area of West Virginia, Sell said.
"The town has only one traffic light," she said. Some residents commute 60 to 80 miles one way to work, and local residents who receive the new homes might have been living with other family members or living in homes without running water, she added.
Sell enjoys the trips to Franklin because the well-organized Almost Heaven group keeps youth busy during the entire week.
"Their cell phones don't work, so kids get to commune with nature and help someone else," she said. For the next trip, she said, "we'll be wiser and not select a date that could be affected by snowfall."
Christian Community Presbyterian Church
How it makes a difference: This church participates regularly in missions and outreach programs in West Virginia and Pittsburgh. To volunteer or donate funds to the upcoming Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity project, call Sell at 301-928-9267.