Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 14, 2013

Churches unite to help others

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — With approximately 1,500 volunteers coming together the past few days, it shouldn’t come as a surprise a lot can be accomplished.   

Volunteers from seven different church congregations gathered throughout Effingham to give a helping hand wherever they could. The event, organized by Serve Now, Serve Together, paired volunteers to activities that help local, as well as global needs.

Some of the volunteers gathered at Hendelmeyer Park to fill canvas sacks full of school supplies for kids in Honduras.

“We do things for people in and out of our community,” said Jill Jones, who heads up the Packed with Prayers program for the Global Mission Team at New Hope Church.

In addition to basic school supplies, the packs were decorated by volunteers of all ages. A personal note was added to the pack with a prayer for the child who receives it, said Jones.

Four-year-old Khye Stanfield put moons and dinosaurs on his bag, while his mother, Kim, drew an arrangement of flowers. Kim and her husband, Mike, like getting their sons, Cole, 12, Taylen, 10, and Khye, 4, involved with helping others.

“There were a lot of choices this weekend, but we came here because it’s something kids can do for other kids,” said Kim Stanfield.

According to Jones, schools in Honduras lack even the basic supplies like pads of paper and pencils for their students. They also made up bags with supplies for teachers.

Jones is going with volunteers from Serve Now, Serve Together to deliver the bags in late January. School in Honduras starts in February.

Having been to Honduras approximately 50 times over the past 25 years, Jones and her husband, Dr. Robert Jones, encourage people of any denomination to travel on the service trip to lend a hand.

“There is a definite need for this,” said Jones. “We have resources that we can use to help other people.”

In other areas, volunteers went door to door to collect food for Catholic Charities, helped clean the TREC trail, built a deck at  Effingham County Sportsman’s Club, worked on a Habitat for Humanity house in Dietrich, fished with young people at Ballard Nature Center, did cleanup and landscaping at Bliss Park and much, much more.

According to Debby Sefton, Christ’s Church Connection minister, Effingham residents have the perfect combination of faith and work ethic for this massive undertaking.

“The Effingham community has a lot of heart,” said Sefton. “When a need is put out, people respond.”

Serve Now, Serve Together was started at Christ’s Church of Effingham seven years ago, with only members of their congregation participating. Previous volunteer activities took place at nursing homes, parks and the renovation of the Girl Scout cabin near Community Park.

“Every year we have grown,” said Sefton. “I think we have gotten bigger because we have built credibility within the community. I believe when someone gets a call from us, they know we are going to follow through.”

Two community groups, the Sunrise Rotary Club and Relay for Life Planning Team, have joined forces with local churches, including New Hope Church, Centenary United Methodist Church, Effingham Assembly of God, Cornerstone Christian Church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.

With all the local support, Sefton is encouraged by a younger generation she sees as willing and able to help.

“I see a 30s age group that wants to do rather than just sit and listen,” said Sefton. “I think people are realizing how blessed we are in America and that we should give back.”

That willingness to give back has led Sefton to listen and find the needs within the community.

“I think our openness to listen to the needs of others and work as a connector to the community really helps,” she said.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.

To read more about the Habitat for Humanity home, see Monday's print edition.