Photo Courtesy: Monte Campbell
Sunday service at the Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church was a bit different this past weekend. Worshippers joined other United Methodist Churches around the country that took part in the Change the World Weekend.
This was Mt. Olivet’s first year taking part in the national church’s annual weekend that encourages members to serve their communities. The church, at 1500 N. Glebe Road, is in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood.
It was the perfect time for the church to take part in the event, according to the church’s director of youth outreach program Tara Gunther.
“We don’t want to be a church that just writes checks. We want to get our hands dirty,” she said. “We really want to be in line with helping our community.”
About 250 members of the church’s community met for an organizational breakfast at the church on Sunday morning before splitting off into about 20 volunteer groups, said Kenn Speicher, the church’s outreach committee co-chair.
Multiple groups went to some locations while others worked at the church packing bagged lunches for delivery. Three groups removed invasive plants and cleaned litter at Four Mile Run, according to Speicher.
For the first time the church worked with the Friends of Guest House in Alexandria, a non-profit organization that helps recent female ex-offenders transition from prison back into public life.
The church’s groups partnered with some of the organization’s residents to remove invasive plants in Guest House’s yard and plant flowers.
“The people who came were phenomenal and were very committed,” said Faith Ruderfer, who lives at one of the organization’s properties with government assistance. “It was great.”
In addition to helping garden, some younger members of the church bonded with the residents from the house.
The women appreciated seeing the younger members help out, Ruderfer said.
The services of the church were much appreciated by the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
The level of deep cleaning that the volunteers completed happens only once or twice a year, said AFAC’s Volunteer Coordinator Laura Jackson. The group also painted their office walls.
“It looks so sunny in here,” said Jackson. She estimated the group worked for five to six hours.
The church started planning this weekend back in January.
“We took on an ambitious project,” said Speicher. Over the months the church reached out to new members and worked on advertising strategies.
The hard work paid off.
Forty of the members who showed up Sunday morning did not register prior to the event, said Speicher who was surprised at the turnout.
“I was hoping for 100 people, we over doubled that. That’s a fantastic turnout,” he said.
Over 2,000 events took part in 15 countries, according to the United Methodist Church. Mt. Olivet plans to join in again next year, Gunther said.
“Our church is really passionate in helping people,” she said.