SALEM, Mo. – Nearly a year ago, Jeremiah and Rachel Privett organized a community meeting to discuss implementing a program powered by churches and friendly neighbors to benefit those in need of housing repairs.
Previously, the Privetts had taken their youth group to Viburnum, Missouri and helped with a program called ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ (LTN) that was organized by the town’s First Baptist Church.
The program assists members of the community who may not be able to afford home repairs or are not able to physically do the projects on their own. They loved participating in the program so much that they decided to bring a Love Thy Neighbor chapter to Salem.
The group created a Facebook page, held meetings and invited community members who were interested in order to get the word out. LTN gathered applications from homeowners, and then selected applicants based on their eligibility.
The group put together a leadership team to discuss execution of the program that’s made up of 11 representatives from five different churches. The group then assembled 17 churches for the project and took a team into the community to talk to homeowners about their needs.
With prayer and meal teams on hand, along with 70 other volunteers, the group was ready to go to work.
Salem’s rendition of Love Thy Neighbor started with a bang, completing a total of seven projects with three of them being quite large.
In the first cluster of jobs, the group helped a woman who lost her husband to cancer. He was in the middle of a siding project on their home before his passing, so LTN stepped in to finish the task along with some extra painting.
Another couple had a porch that was deteriorating, a rail that needed fixed and a broken door. LTN came in and fixed everything, free of charge.
Pastor Matt Milligan, a site manager and representative on the leadership team, said another man had an air conditioning unit that would no longer function, quite a problem as it is summertime in Missouri.
“He had a little air conditioner unit that was twelve inches wide by twelve inches tall, cooling the entire house. We took the old unit out and replaced it with a new one.”
The team also built and completed a wheelchair ramp for an elderly man who has a hard time going up stairs.
“He sat out there with us every day, for four days in the heat,” Milligan said. “We would bring him water and he would just watch. He had more fun those four days than anyone. We got to bless him.”
The gentleman was sitting on a brand new white rocking chair that the volunteers got him after he mentioned his love for the chairs. The entire crew signed the bottom of the chair so the gentleman could always remember their day together.
Other tasks performed were power washing, landscaping and fellowship itself. Before the end of the workday, the children of LTN painted rocks and created thoughtful gifts for each homeowner to remember them by.
Milligan told The Heartlander that the community of Salem came together in a really big way during the timeframe of their projects.
“Lumber yards and material places gave us things that cost, for free,” he said. “We had a fundraiser and people would stop by and offer help or give us money. It’s been a good outpouring. It’s our first year and we didn’t know what to expect.”
People have also come from neighboring Texas County to see how they could possibly start a Love Thy Neighbor chapter in their own towns and communities.