Big things can happen in small groups. Twenty five years ago, an adult Sunday school class here at Floris UMC kicked around the idea of doing volunteer work together outside of the classroom. Someone brought up helping repair homes for low-income families through Fairfax County’s Christmas in April program. The class liked the idea and a group of about 20 donated their time and talents that April. A Floris tradition was born. Today, anywhere from 50 to 140 volunteers from Floris participate in the yearly event, now called Rebuilding Together.
Marcie Tuggle, one of the group’s original members, remembers fondly the years she and her husband, Don, spent volunteering the last weekend of each April. “We were making a difference,” Marcie explains. “We were doing something good for people and having so much fun doing it.” She recalls one house vividly. It was a once-beautiful Craftsman style home in Falls Church whose elderly owner had been struggling many years to keep it up. The team did not realize just how dire the situation was until they arrived that morning. They quietly circled together and prayed, placing the situation in God’s hands, and then we began the day’s work. She remembers how cheerful and energized they all were that day, despite the seemingly overwhelming amount of work the house required. By the end of the day, the house was transformed. The owner was so touched by the love and support she received from the team that she made a point to call the Rebuilding Together office each year to let them know that she was continuing to care for her house.
Great care goes into planning for each year’s project. According to Tim Wells, past Outreach Chair and frequent Rebuilding Together volunteer, the homeowner’s needs are assessed and the specific labor required is determined well in advance. All levels are needed and welcomed, from the most skilled work like drywall repair and new floor installation to painting and clearing yard debris. Careful effort is made to match volunteer to job. Volunteers are divided into teams, and each team is given a specific task, such as renovating a bathroom or building a wheelchair ramp. After the preparations are done, the day arrives. Volunteers meet early in the morning at Floris UMC, register, receive t-shirts, strategize and travel to the site. The work is typically completed in eight to ten hours. “It’s quite miraculous,” Tim says. He credits “the love of Christ” in each of the volunteers that makes everything come together so beautifully.
Rebuilding Together has touched countless lives over its 25-year history at our church. Marcie Tuggle sums it up, “So often the homeowners are overwhelmed financially and emotionally. This gives them a fresh start.” Considering the volunteer’s perspective, she says with a smile, “You really do get so much more back than you give.” Tim Wells adds, “Christ is the face of love. The faces of the volunteers and the homeowners say it all. Paul was right in Philippians: We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
This year, Floris will participate again on Saturday, April 25. Opportunities are available for skilled and unskilled volunteers alike to serve. Registration is limited to ages 14 and older. Volunteers under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The deadline is April 6. Sign up at www.florisumc.org/volunteer-rebuilding-together or contact Eric Raust at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Margo Smith.