PROSPERITY — Setting out to warm hearts and homes with God’s love, Wightman United Methodist Church in Prosperity began its seventh annual W.A.R.M. project Thursday morning.
W.A.R.M. stands for Weatherization and Repair Ministry and the goal of the project is to help families and homeowners in the Newberry County area fix up their homes, as some might not have the monetary means or physical ability to do so on their own.
Eddie Sloop, member of the project’s steering committee, said that the group began looking at homes for the project in September 2013. Of the 84 homes that were looked through, only 25 were able to be chosen for the project this year.
Sloop said the steering team tries to pair the number of houses chosen with how many people are available to serve as team leaders for a home.
Although only 25 homes were officially chosen for the W.A.R.M. project, Sloop said 39 homes will have been worked on as a whole by the project’s completion. Some were worked on while in the searching progress. Those were homes with small fixes that could more easily be done.
The types of jobs on the home sites include roofing, replacing and fixing bathroom floors, leaking roofs, floor patching, painting, and installing air conditioning units.
“You name it, we’ll pretty much be doing it,” Sloop said.
Starting the W.A.R.M. project in 2007, they took on 14 homes.
“I remember having to hunt down houses then to work on,” Sloop said.
When it first began, the steering team would speak with bus drivers to see if they noticed homes that may need help on their bus routes.
Now that the project is more well known, Sloop said calls are taken at the church for those to put their name on a list to be chosen in the future.
“You just pray that the Lord is leading you to people who really need it,” Sloop said. “We’re doing this for the Lord.”
In years past, Wightman has had people from their own church as well as other community churches participate in the project. The average number of participants ranges from 200-250 people.
“We appreciate all the help we can get,” Sloop said.
One of the homeowners that received assistance from the project this year, Essie Stephens said she’s been waiting for such an opportunity for almost two years. Because she is also of the Methodist denomination, Stephens said the project touched home with her faith.
“It just makes me feel so good,” Stephens said. “I didn’t have the extra money to get these things done. It makes me feel good for people to come and help me out.”
Volunteers worked to do some inside painting and repair floors in Stephens house, for which she said she was very thankful.
One of Wightman’s members, Voris Bowers, hasn’t missed a year yet.
“This is the most wonderful thing,” Bowers said. “I just love it.”
At the wonderful age of 86 years old, Bowers said when the W.A.R.M. project first began, she was asked if she would like to be a part of the kitchen crew. Her response?
“No way,” Bowers said. “I want to be where the action is,” she laughed about enjoying working on the homes themselves.
Bowers said her favorite trade she’s learned from the project throughout the years is installing vinyl siding.
In addition to the groups that work on homes and prepare meals for the participants, there are also volunteers that stay at the church to provide childcare to those that have parents working on project W.A.R.M.
Rosemary Bowers said she enjoys working with the children and fulfills the phrase, “once a teacher, always a teacher.” Rosemary said she has worked with children at Wightman since 1970 when she became a member.
“I have always worked with children,” Rosemary said. “They are my passion.”
Dean Lollis, pastor at Wightman, said that although this is an event hosted by Wightman, it is truly a community ministry effort and that he would love to partner with even more churches in Newberry County to extend the reach of the project to a greater area.
“Many people from many backgrounds and many churches come together to make this a reality,” Lollis said. “That’s the strength of what is happening. God’s love really shines through when we can come together and work together toward a common goal.”
Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.