MASON COUNTY — Despite the days when temperatures hit the 90’s and days when the rain pours, a group of individuals do not waiver from their work to help those in need.
So far this summer, visiting mission groups from the West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps, Inc. (WVMAW) have completed approximately 14 volunteer projects around Mason County.
Jeff Wittman, one of the project coordinators, shared the mission groups’ projects primarily include building and/or rebuilding porches, decks, ramps, and stairs for individuals around the county in need especially the elderly and those with a physical handicap. The volunteer work the WVMAW groups do for the homeowners is at no expense to the homeowner.
The volunteers who choose to visit this city each pay $250 to come, wherein the funds go towards buying supplies for the volunteer projects that are worth thousands of dollars.
When the volunteers arrive in Mason County, they are housed at the Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church and when a new group comes in members of the church make a welcome meal, so all of the the new and old volunteers can get to know one another.
Wittman shared the groups of the volunteers this year have ranged from having about 11 people to over 30. When it comes to completing projects, some of these groups are broken up to smaller groups, so more work can be done around the county. The volunteers range in age as well, some are in their early teens, their 60’s, and others in between.
Their goal this summer is to complete at least 20 projects. Last summer they completed between 12-15 projects.
Four groups have visited the county so far including the “Believe Team” from Columbus, Ohio, a group from outside Columbus, a group from Prosperity, Pa., and a group from New Jersey. Next week, a group from Virginia will be coming through and in September, two more groups will be coming through.
The WVMAW website states the program began in October 2001 and has since brought 40-75 volunteer groups per year to work in West Virginia. When the volunteers are visiting a community, they will do projects such as home repair and reconstruction, deconstruction, playground restoration, parks cleanup, stream bank stabilization, and vacation bible schools, among other works. The WVMAW is supported in part by The Presbytery of West Virginia, The Synod of the Trinity, and gifts from churches and individuals. The program has a close relationship with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, particularly in times of disaster recovery. The groups recruited by WVMAW come from churches of various faith traditions, as well as from colleges and universities.
Wittman shared participating in this volunteer effort is a good time even though a lot of hard work is put in. The volunteers are always searching for new individuals to help.
“A lot of people need this,” said Wittman. “A lot of people are proud in this area and will not ask for help even when they can’t even get out their house.”
One of the individuals helped this year was unable to leave her house for over a year-and-a-half as she had to carried out of her house by her father who passed away. With the help of the WVMAW volunteers, she can now venture out again.
Another individual, Sharon Bentz, who lives out on Quest Lane in Point Pleasant, could not even climb her stairs on two feet, she had to crawl. Her deck had a terrible lean and was not adequately wheelchair accessible for her daughter Stella Dawn.
Her sister-in-law referred her to the WVMAW volunteers. When they came in, they tore down the old deck and stairs and rebuilt Bentz a new deck, stairs, and a ramp. Wittman commented it took about a week and a half to complete the project and it has been their biggest project so far this summer. Throughout the duration of the project, the rain poured and the ground was so saturated the volunteers sunk in the mud and clay, but that did not deter their work ethic.
“The people that did this are some of the best Christians,” said Bentz. “They are not only compassionate, they’re caring. They don’t judge you, they just see you as a person. They are the best group of people.”
She shared having the WVMAW volunteers at her home was a great time and a lot of fun. She kept them fueled with fresh coffee and treats and offered them a shady spot to enjoy their lunch and relax.
Bentz has lived in Mason County her entire life and has lived at her house on Quest Lane for a consecutive 23 years and as a child.
The specific project done for her would have cost at least $10,000 if it were not for the work done by the WVMAW volunteers.
“All they (the WVMAW volunteers) ask for in return is your faith…,” said Bentz. “I’m blessed, that’s all I can I say, by the good Lord.”
She shared how passionate the volunteers were in their work, caring about how the product turned out and that each and everyone of them worked hard every day.
“I can’t say enough nice things about these people,” said Bentz.
She encourages anyone in need to contact the WVMAW volunteers.
Wittman, who is in his second year being involved with this program, commented on how great he feels the program is for this county. Not only are individuals around the county being helped, but friendships and special bonds are being made with these individuals as well as his with his fellow volunteers.
For those who are interested in more information on the WVMAW program or would like to refer an individual in need, they may contact Wittman at 304-593-3773 or the Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church at 304-675-2170.
Erin (Perkins) Johnson is a staff writer Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.