Congregation makes a difference

WELLSVILLE – Groups of people in bright orange shirts could be seen throughout Wellsville on Saturday morning, working together to make a difference.

That’s because Saturday was Make a Difference Day in town, with a village-wide cleanup sponsored by Wellsville First Christian Church. Parishioners volunteered their time Saturday morning to work on sprucing up the village, from picking up trash and pulling weeds along curbs and sidewalks to – for the first time this year – cleaning up around Hammond Park.

Lindsey Russell, children’s ministry director, says Make a Difference Day serves as the lead-off for the week-long Mission Wellsville, which begins on June 15. “It’s like a welcome to summer,” she said. “We like to serve and show our love for the village in this way.”

During Mission Wellsville, church volunteers help people around the village who either cannot do for themselves or cannot afford to have done for them. Service projects have included trimming weeds and bushes, building wheelchair ramps or painting at homes of the elderly, the physically or mentally impaired, and others who are in need.

On Saturday, however, workers concentrated on cleaning up the public spaces around the village. Work in the park included cutting brush around the road to make it more passable, repainting the basketball court fence and weeding the playground. By contrast, Russell says the summer youth workers employed by the village over the last few years have done such a good job on tasks like weeding and painting the curbs that First Christian Church volunteers don’t need to do it anymore. “It’s allowed us to concentrate on other areas we haven’t done before,” she said.

Matthew Gibbs, the new youth pastor at FCC, was driving around delivering pizza and bottles of water to the groups of volunteers. Gibbs estimates that between 80 and 100 volunteers participated, which was beyond his expectations. He was very pleased that so many people were moved to give of their own time.

“They really came and were ready to work,” he said. “It gives me a lot of excitement for what’s to come.”

Members of the Deitch family were working along the railroad tracks at the corner of Third Street and Riverside Avenue, picking up litter and refuse. It was the first year for David and his wife Krista, though their children – Darius, 14, and Mikenzi, 8 – had worked during last year’s event. Deitch said he’d seen the church volunteers around town in previous years and was inspired to join them in their work.

Deitch feels that projects like this help to counteract some of the negativity that he’s heard about the village. He says the FCC volunteers work to make things better, and he wanted to be a part of that. “They give every year, no matter what,” he said. “That’s nice to see and nice to hear.”

FCC Pastor Mark Blakeley says he’s also encouraged with the progression of the event. “It’s grown every single year that we’ve done it,” he said. What impressed him more than numbers, however, is the work that he says people are willing to put in just to help around town. “They’re not worried about getting recognized for it. They just want to go out and do a nice job.”

Blakeley says they worked with the village to clean up and fix at the park what was most in need, using village equipment such as rakes and shovels. He also made a point of thanking local businesses who donated to the effort, including the Wellsville Save-a-Lot for its donation of water and snacks for the volunteer workers.

“Community involvement, everybody pitching together: That’s what it takes,” he said.

* Applications for those who could be helped by Mission Wellsville are available at the church, at Center Pharmacy or at village hall. The submission deadline is June 10.