By Stan Friedman
BELLEVUE, WA (September 23, 2011) – In 2005, Highland Covenant Church decided to celebrate its 50-year anniversary with a Jubilee Service Day outreach.
Recently, the church held its seventh year of the ministry, which includes working in nine elementary schools and in a number of East Bellevue homes where homeowners for one reason or another are unable to maintain their homes, says Gary King, a Highland member and director of Jubilee.
The outreach has grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. This year 1,130 volunteers came from 27 different churches. Other churches supporting the ministry included Newport Covenant, which has partnered with Highland since 2006, and Mercer Island Covenant Church.
The City of Bellevue and other organizations also have worked with the project.
Volunteers work in two shifts, from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. They choose whether they want to work on the homes or in the schools.
“Our primary objective in the schools is to work with the teachers to get their classrooms ready to open in the fall,” King says. “We always have a number of teachers say something like, “This will be the first year in my 20 years of teaching that I will be able to be with my family on Labor Day . . . thank you so much for helping me.’ ”
We also ask the school to make a list of other things that we can do if we have the skills and money to do more than the classrooms. We are always able to do most of the things they list.
Liz Ritz, principal of Woodridge Elementary School, says her staff was encouraged by the 70 to 80 volunteers who worked at her school. The staff always is amazed at the kindness, love, and camaraderie we bring into her school, she told organizers.
The respectful conduct of the volunteers has led to a deeper partnership with the Bellevue School District, King says. They have invited the churches to help with after-school sports programs in Bellevue middle schools.
The ministry partners with the city to work on the homes. The city creates a brochure about the upcoming project and sends it to targeted areas where homeowners are in need. They also receive the response cards requesting consideration for this year’s project.
“I have a team of volunteers who do all of the visiting of homeowners to determine the most needy of the group. and once we know the number of volunteers available for working at the homes, we make the final selection of the ones we will do,” says King.
Volunteers were able to work on 12 homes during Jubilee this year, King says. “We painted the outside of four homes, and the rest were yard work and yard beautification efforts.”