The men with Neighbor Helping Neighbor normally go in, get the job done with just a few volunteers and don’t expect or want any praise.
Saturday, the group that does home repairs for the elderly and needy got a boost of extra volunteers — some from Spartanburg and Cherokee counties and many of them youth.
The group, which numbered around 26, gathered at Grace United Church and then fanned out to four sites — painting and doing repairs.
“There are a lot of people with needs in Union County,” said Grace United Methodist Church member George Lynn. “I realize how blessed I am.”
Fellow church member Clark Beavans agreed.
“And it makes you feel good to help someone,” he said.
Angela Fowler, youth director at Bethlehem United Methodist, spent her Saturday morning scraping paint from the back the house on Calhoun Street in preparation for painting.
“I work with Salkehatchie every year,” she said. “I just love helping people.”
Neighbor Helping Neighbor got its start in the mid-1990s after a tornado struck Union County. Bogansville United Methodist Church Terry Sturgill said a United Methodist grant helped provide the initial funding for supplies. Once a year — on Father’s Day — Union County Methodist churches take up a special offering for the group.
John Heath, 91, the oldest volunteer with Neighbor Helping Neighbor and a Grace Church member, said it was amazing how people came together initially to help a woman and her son in Lockhart who lost their mobile home to the tornado.
“A few started going down there on Saturdays and doing things and the first thing you knew we had about four Methodist churches involved,” Heath said. “The Rev. Larry Hyder (then pastor of Bethlehem and Foster Chapel United Methodist churches) turned out to be our leader. People began discussing and said, ‘Why don’t we just do this all the time.’”
Heath remembers that Ray “Dynamite” Lemons, who owns a bulldozing company, was hired to come to the Lockhart site to help remove some of the rubble. When Lemons saw that the workers on the site were all volunteers, he donated his services and offered to do more than he had been asked to do.
“That was the beginning, and then when we got started, each Saturday a group of ladies from each church would volunteer to bring food for that time,” Heath said.
Sturgill said Neighbor Helping Neighbor takes on between 12 and 20 projects each year with six or eight men working on Saturdays. Sturgill said Heath is one of the most faithful volunteers — Sturgill could remember only three Saturdays Heath had not participated in the years the organization has been in existence.
Members of the group said they had really been moved by some of the people they had met while doing repair projects. Sturgill recalls one instance where the group put a roof on the home of a couple who told him they often didn’t get to sleep in a dry bed because their roof leaked so terribly.
“Every time it rained, it leaked and they couldn’t stop it,” he said. “They couldn’t afford anything. When we told them we wanted to fix the roof, they said they couldn’t afford to pay us. We said we didn’t ask for pay and they said they couldn’t afford the shingles. We told them we would buy the shingles. That couple was so appreciative.”
Saturday’s projects included installing and painting a safety rail for a woman on Arthur Boulevard and painting and making repairs at three other homes.
“With 20 percent unemployment in Union County and the poverty that exists, we are trying to take up the slack of other charities,” Sturgill said.
(Donations may be mailed to Grace United Methodist Church, 201 South Church St., Union, 29379 and should be earmarked “Neighbor Helping Neighbor.”)