Phyllis Waller used to love working in her yard, until a severe brain injury left her physically incapable of doing so.
Her yard wasn’t left unattended, however, as kids from several churches in the community came to pull weeds and put down mulch for Waller.
They were there as part of the program Mending Fences. Mending Fences is the product of Highland Ridge Community Development Corp. and local churches coming together to assist the poor, veterans, the elderly and disabled people with yard work and home repairs. Church leaders and 70 kids gathered Monday on Poplar Street and then spread out in crews throughout the surrounding area to help those in need. They will continue working until Thursday.
“For all these young people to take the opportunity to help the people in the neighborhood, it’s a wonderful thing,” Waller said.
The churches involved are Church of the Covenant, Life Church, Central Assembly of God, Friendship Community Church and Washington Alliance Church.
“The churches had decided that Washington needs help, and we do,” said Fred Fleet, president of Highland Ridge Community Development Corp. “We have one of the largest poverty rates in the county.”
Mending Fences began last year with three churches and 40 youngsters, said Fleet. In 2014, they completed work on one home, and hope to complete work on at least three this year.
“We have identified between 30 and 50 homes that we can help with,” Fleet said.
Of the kids who came to help, several are returning for their second year. Bill Jenkins, 18 and a member of Life Church, is one of the returning volunteers.
“I enjoy seeing people get together and seeing the city transform,” Jenkins said.
For many of the youngsters, this is their first year helping with Mending Fences. Hannah West, who is 11, thought it would be an exciting opportunity.
“I was at my youth group, and I thought it would be a fun experience,” she said.
Simply repairing homes is not all Mending Fences will be accomplishing this year. Some kids may be cleaning out vacant lots, while others will help to put up a bus stop. In an empty lot on Wheeling Street, a gazebo is being built with the help of a grant from the Benedum Foundation. Church leaders said Mending Fences is a way in which they can spread the message and love of God.
“The love of God has to be expressed in action, not just words,” said Aaron Miller, an associate pastor at Life Church.
Don Nixon, director of spiritual development at Church of the Covenant, echoed similar sentiments.
“The most important thing is to shine the light of Christ in the neighborhood through the kids,” Nixon said.