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Maitland church makes ‘homes livable’ for local families

Maitland church makes ‘homes livable’ for local families

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Maitland church makes ‘homes livable’ for local families

Sept. 16, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0740}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

MAITLAND — Lavinia Buchberger, a widow with three children, had no idea what she was going to do about her house.

Leaky pipes had rotted the inside of her bathroom walls, but she knew nothing about how to repair them and was afraid she’d be taken “for a ride” by any business that could fix them.

(Left to right) Asbury United Methodist Church members Bob Goodin, Paul Schumacher and Jim Porterfield plan plumbing repairs at Lavinia Buchberger’s home. The crew undertook the project as part of the church’s Widows Might ministry. Photo by Thomas Routzong. Photo #07-0672.

Without other options, Buchberger finally called Asbury United Methodist Church in Maitland.

“I am overwhelmed by their generosity,” she said. “I know I can trust people from the church.”

Buchberger said it took a while for her to work up the courage to ask for help “because there are so many people out there that have greater needs, but I really did need the help.”

“I prayed about it for days before finally asking, and then when I did, they all just showed up on my doorstep smiling and ready to help,” she said. “We’re so grateful to have someone come do what we can’t do ourselves … someone who will help with the hard part. They get together and have a lot of fun. They show how you can serve the Lord joyfully.”

The Bible's book of James says religion that God accepts as pure and faultless looks after orphans and widows in their time of need.

Asbury United Methodist Church feels compelled to make that its mission and is succeeding through the recently launched Widows Might ministry.

Widows Might and Asbury’s mission group help women or men whose spouses are dead, disabled or physically unable to perform household chores and women who don’t have a husband because of abandonment, divorce, illness or because their husband is in prison. They say they particularly want to help those who have no family willing or able to help.

The ministry’s volunteers do carpentry, work on plumbing and electrical issues, paint, deal with problems with computers and electronic equipment, do yard work, and take care of financial needs — bookkeeping, reviewing bank statements, paying bills.

“The Widows Might ministry has been in the planning for two years and is now in the church budget,” said Dianna Bates, chairwoman of the church missions committee. “The money is there for people who cannot afford supplies. We’ve also been blessed by local businesses that have donated thousands of dollars of materials to help people in need.”

Bates said Sunday school classes and the youth donate funds to the ministry and help out at the sites, working and providing lunches.

“We never have any problem getting enough people to come work,” she said.

Church member Paul Schumacher organized the ministry. “The Bible talks a lot about widows and how we should help them,” he said. “We have decided to help widows for certain, but also those who are disabled.”

Schumacher said the ministry isn’t just for women. It’s also for men, and although the original idea was to help church members, team members say they plan to reach out to the community as God leads them.

“We currently have about 20 to 25 volunteers, with about five to six involved on most days,” he said. “God has gifted us with some building abilities of varying levels that can all be useful in His kingdom.”

A support group at the church called Sharing & Caring identifies people who need help, often meeting people who just don’t know who else to call. The church Web site also has an online form where people can submit a call for help.

The ministry is contagious, according to Bates. She says the church’s air conditioning repair man saw pictures of the ministry at the church, asked someone what they were doing in the pictures and then showed up at the work house the next Saturday.

Bob Goodin, a member of the church, says he loves helping others: “I retired 10 years ago, and this is a good way to use my time. I don’t get bored helping others. I enjoy doing this. I’ve been on mission trips since the church started, and this is just another mission.”

Jim Porterfield, a retired doctor, agrees. “I like to do it. It’s fun,” he said. “We have a good time doing something good for somebody else. … I learn something new every day.”

Though the missions group and Widows Might outreach are separate entities, they often work together.

Schumacher said that cooperation was in full force on one home — an eight-month project.

“Dianna was made aware of a family in Sorrento where the husband had abandoned the wife and kids,” he said. “Their home had a leaky roof, rotting floors, exposed wiring, shorted-out wiring. It was a disaster.”

Bates said she and another church member went to the house to assess the repairs that would be needed and see how the church could help.

“There were holes in the walls and no doors,” she said. “The mother had cancer and made minimum wage and couldn’t afford to do anything. We decided to help.”

Bates put together a mission team, and they worked on the home from December 2006 to last August. Local businesses donated fans, shingles, flooring and carpet. Schumacher said Sunniland Supplies donated 50-year shingles, delivered them to the home and loaded them onto the roof so they could be installed. A group called Clearstreet Mission also let the team borrow nail guns to do the work.

“We had to replace half of the homes’ plywood,” Bates said. “There was not even a real back wall to the home. It was all exposed and water damaged.”

Schumacher said the team also replaced the flooring and drywall, gutted the bathroom and installed a new bathtub and tile.

“One little girl had never had a closet so we built her one,” he added. “We took a house that was unlivable and made it livable for this family. The family worked right along with us and did a lot of the work themselves.”

“These people always thank us, but it is not necessary,” Porterfield said. “The best feedback I get is in my heart.”


This article relates to Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a freelance writer based in Beverly Hills, Fla. His columns appear in the Naples Sun Times newspaper and Faith & Tennis magazine.