Sylvester lives in a home where the laundry room floor used to be a level lower than the surrounding floors. The paint was peeling off his home and the entrance and exit areas were difficult, at best. The bathtub was a typical tub in a normal bathroom. For many people, these would not have been overwhelming obstacles. But for Sylvester, who is an amputee, these were both dangerous and hopeless situations. The lower floor caused Sylvester to fall several times and his diabetes complicated his healing. Getting in and out of the bathtub without grab bars was nearly impossible. Due to his disability and impending second amputee operation, there was no money, no physical means of tending to the outside of his home. A crew of volunteers came to love Sylvester, as they served him by working on his home. His floor is now level. There are grab bars in his bathroom and a level deck outside his back door. Sylvester is so hopeful and appreciative that he inquired about participating in a Goodwill training program. "You see. I do need a job badly, and I want to give back to the community so much and quickly," says Sylvester. "I can do a lot of things, and you guys made me feel alive when all the attention of getting my house done, I felt part of the team."
The residents of the Hilltop neighborhood lived in an area where the walkways behind their homes were overgrown and littered with trash. Even worse, it was a prime location for dangerous drug trafficking. Not only was the area unsafe for residents, but also for police officers attempting to control the crimes in this area. A group of volunteers, armed with chainsaws, rakes and clippers, descended upon this area and cleared it out. Lives changed. Criminals were no longer able to seek refuge in the overgrown paths. Neighborhood children could play behind their homes. And Hilltop residents had a renewed sense of pride. The Hilltop neighborhood association began meeting again with renewed vigor. People took ownership of keeping their neighborhood safe and creating a place where families would take pride in their homes and common areas.
A Passion to Serve
When Todd Mestepey and David Oliphant first took a look at their project site for LOVE Wichita 2010, they thought they may have gotten in a little over their heads. Their task was to beautify a large lot of land, including painting three outbuildings, clearing three acres of overgrown land, covering the long driveway with gravel to fill large potholes, painting the house and repairing two fences. "The homeowner had inherited this property from her parents and was not able to keep up with the large lot," explains Todd. "The clearing of the trees and overgrowth alone was a huge job."
But Todd and Dave knew the project wasn't too big for their group of LOVE Wichita volunteers. The team tackled everything in just one day, right down to pouring the gravel before a storm hit. "Everyone involved had a great attitude and just the right skill set to accomplish the task at hand."
Dave and Todd say their team was outstanding, working hard the whole day. "We had several folks who worked all morning with chain saws and weed eaters clearing and cutting ... The out buildings were repaired and painted red ... We also mowed the entire property and repaired two fences. With just a few volunteers and one day of work we filled a need for the homeowner. That was an incredible thing to be a part of," says Todd.
A few aspects of the project were a little daunting, the guys recall. Repairing the barn required a power lift and lots of patience. "Repairing the barn consisted of replacing siding, boarding up doors and windows and painting. The most difficult part was repairing the fascia [the end caps of the rafters, which support the gutters] under the eves. This was up around 25 feet in the air, and all the work was done on a eight foot by 20 foot power lift," explains David. The best part? "No one got hurt!"
They say the homeowner was especially grateful after they completed the whole project because she had been afraid to go into her yard since the growth was so tall and she couldn't be sure what was there. "Once we were finished clearing, the homeowner was so happy because she could see the back of her property, which gave her a sense of security," says Todd. "And one fence we repaired was the privacy fence in her back yard, and again, I think this helped her feel secure."
Deb Hilscher, a church coordinator last year and this year's LOVE Wichita area coordinator, remembers the team worked up to the last second to complete the project. "There was a storm coming that afternoon and I was calling all our projects trying get the teams in," remembers Deb. "Todd and David told me they were still trying to finish up pouring the gravel, but they were watching black clouds roll in and knew they had to hurry. Then I got a call from Todd who told me they had finished, and as they were saying a closing prayer, the first rain drop fell on his head. It was such a God thing!"
Todd says he has a passion to serve the community during LOVE Wichita, and the 2010 project only helped to fuel that. "I love helping others and seeing volunteers come together for a common purpose and make a difference in the lives of others. In addition you see progress: Where an overgrown lot once stood, now stands a lot that is cleared and gives the owner security."
David agrees, saying, "I enjoying working with people that have a passion for helping each other out." When asked why it's so important to serve, Dave says it's simple: "Faith without works is like a screen door on a submarine."
David and Todd are already gearing up for their 2011 LOVE Wichita projects. Todd is again leading a team, and hopes the project will be even bigger and better than last year's.
The guys say to keep praying for all the LOVE Wichita projects, and the behind-the-scene details that make the whole thing work. "Pray for patience, safety and that our actions will speak louder then words," says David. "And that we don't ever lose the passion to serve others in our community as we humbly reach out to others in the name of Christ," adds Todd.
"Being involved in LOVE Wichita means you get an opportunity to share the good news with others through actions and words. It's all about the love!"