Ocoee Outreach ends season; volunteers worked 70 projects

By KRISTEN HART Banner Intern
Posted 8/7/17

Volunteers from around the country took time out of their summer to help local low-income homeowners through Ocoee Outreach.

Ocoee Outreach is an eight-week summer ministry connected to the …

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Ocoee Outreach ends season; volunteers worked 70 projects

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Volunteers from around the country took time out of their summer to help local low-income homeowners through Ocoee Outreach.

Ocoee Outreach is an eight-week summer ministry connected to the CrossNet Baptist Network. This ministry pairs low-income homeowners who need repairs with people who can help.

It relaunched 16 years ago in 2001, but was originally started in 1996. The ministry is based in Cleveland, but volunteers are from different parts of the state and even from other states.

“Our mission is to show love to people and to share the Gospel with them through the work that we do,” said Ocoee Outreach Director Randy Bonner.

More than 40 church groups from around the country traveled to Cleveland throughout the summer. The majority of the volunteers were students from middle to high school. Some of those volunteers were led by ministers from their churches, as well as Ocoee Outreach staff members from the area.

Homes were chosen in March and April. Staff verified the families’ needs and financial situations, as well as reviewed what construction projects the homes needed. They also took into account what skill levels the projects required, so they could know which teams were best suited for them.

The volunteers would stay for weeklong periods after being assigned to a home. They completed projects including roofing, outdoor painting, landscaping and any other outdoor projects the homeowners needed. There were 70 separate projects that were worked on this summer.

Volunteers and staff didn’t always know how to do projects such as roofing, but they did receive training through the summer, and were partnered with those who knew how to do the tasks.

“My dad laughed at me when I told him I was going to do construction,” said Ocoee Outreach staff member Katie Wilhoit. “This is not in my comfort zone, but the Lord works this stuff out.”

One of the church groups that volunteered this summer traveled from First Baptist Church in Bogata, Texas, and helped fix a leaking roof. The homeowner, who wished to remain anonymous, has lived in Cleveland most of her life.

“They’ve been great,” she said. “I’m really thankful for them and really appreciate it. I hate to see them go.”

One student ministry traveled from Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, and this group has partnered with Ocoee Outreach every year for the last five years. This year, the group helped a homeowner paint her house and worked on a garden.

Blake Fondren, the student minister of Englewood Baptist, hopes the students take what they learn with Ocoee Outreach and apply it to their own communities.

“[The students] see how easy it is here, and how much fun it is, and how great it is to serve others, and they take that back with them to Jackson,” Fondren said.

Participants worked on homes from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for the week they were here. They received regular water breaks and a lunch break.

Other services the ministry was involved in included Backyard Bible Clubs, sports clinics and block parties. Ocoee Outreach had 10 block parties this summer, about one per week. Some volunteers also visited local nursing homes.

Volunteers participated in Sunday and Thursday evening worship services at the Mountain View Inn. Anyone involved in helping with the ministry participated.

As each week wrapped up, students would visit other sites to see what other groups had accomplished throughout the week before returning home.

As groups went home each week, new groups would come in to continue where they left off.

Ocoee Outreach finished its summer off on July 28, but local staff members from the area continued to work until July 31.

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