The Manheim Project provides assistance to local families

By on August 1, 2018

Pat (left) and Bill Loercher help with window washing as part of The Manheim Project. (Photo from Trinity EC)

Volunteers wearing blue Manheim Project t-shirts were a familiar sight in Manheim Borough and parts of Rapho and Penn Townships from July 23 through 31.

Even a rainy week that dumped nearly 12 inches of rain on the area didn’t discourage volunteers from 11 area churches from participating in this “mission project” to their own community. The Manheim Project was launched in 2013 by White Oak Church of the Brethren as a one-week “mission trip” in its own community. It’s modeled on those that have been in place for several years in the Ephrata and Lititz areas and is part of Love INC (In the Name of Christ)’s Compassion Project.

Since its inception, Nate Minnich, one of the coordinators of The Manheim Project, said it has grown to include more churches and more volunteers. In turn that means that more projects can be undertaken.

Initially projects were focused in Manheim Borough, but with more volunteers, the effort has reached out to encompass the entire Manheim Central School District.

“The Manheim Project is a coordinated effort by men and women, but flourishes in the hands of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” Minnich said. “We are blessed to be able to serve our community as the hands and feet of Jesus. It aligns with our mantra found in 1 John 4:19: ‘We love because He first loved us.’”

Holding a Teddy Bear created using a few of her late husband’s shirts, Viola Loercher chatted with Manheim Project volunteers as they helped do some projects around her home. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

Volunteers from 11 churches

Participating in this year’s outreach were volunteers form East Fairview Church of the Brethren, Erbs Mennonite Church, Erisman Mennonite Church, Jerusalem Church, LCBC, Manheim Brethren in Christ, Newport Church, Salem United Methodist Church, Trinity Evangelical Congregational Church, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, and White Oak Church of the Brethren.

“I am very excited to see how God has and continues to bless the project efforts,” said Minnich. “It is humbling to see it have reaching affects into relationships and organizations outside of the immediate families we serve. I can only hope and pray that God will continue to multiply the project year over year for His honor and glory. It has been refreshing and exciting to have new churches joining the effort this year and I hope their experience prompts their return and the continued growth of the outreach.”

Loren Gochnauer said this is Trinity EC’s second year participating in the Manheim Project.

“We saw a news piece about it and the church decided to participate the following year. The best part about The Manheim Project is that everyone &tstr; the people in the community and church volunteers &tstr; wins,” she said, “Our youth volunteers can earn credits to help defray the cost of youth activities such as mission trips and church retreats.”

Trinity’s 28 volunteers logged 100 hours total during the first two days of their five day effort.

“We’re sharing God’s love by helping our neighbors. You don’t have to look too far to find someone in your own community who could use a helping hand,” said Dave Garner, a retired master carpenter.

Garner and Ron Young were part of the team that washed windows, scraped paint and repaired damaged and repainted a garage ceiling for 92-year-old Viola Loercher.

“It’s a blessing to have people help me. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t get anything done,” she said adding that her husband, John, passed away last year.

Manheim Project volunteer Mike Dieter paints a porch. Prior to painting, he scraped off old paint and made repairs to the wood. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

Mike Dieter is no stranger to church projects. He and his wife, Donna, have volunteered for various projects including some with the youth at Trinity EC.

“We want to set a good example for our children and grandchildren,” he said as painted a front porch and the front porch railing for a couple who has some mobility issues. Prior to plying the paint brush, he scraped and sanded some of the rough spots. “It’s wonderful to be able to share my skills, and people are so thankful for the assistance. It makes me feel good to see the homeowners smile when they see the progress we’ve made.”

This was the first year LCBC participated in The Manheim project.

“We do a yearly event with our high school students called The 72. During that event we serve in our local community for 72 hours. This year we wanted to be more intentional with impacting Manheim,” said LCBC’s Matt Stoltzfus. “We heard about The Manheim Project, and wanted to be part of it.”

He said about 85 students and leaders participating in The 72 this year.

Lots of projects

Volunteers engaged in about 150 different projects over the two weeks. Activities included painting the exterior of homes, cleaning windows, repairing screens, weeding and trimming shrubs, cleaning gutters, repairing wooden fences, repairing concrete, power washing, repairing and repainting porches and decks. They even spruced up a pavilion at Veterans Memorial Park.

Manheim Project volunteers are not just those onsite doing the home improvement projects. There’s also a support team &tstr; volunteers who deliver supplies, food and water. Gochnauer said Trinity provided lunch to its volunteers, and its week of service began with a group prayer.

A community prayer event was held Saturday, July 14 at the Manheim Farm Show.

“The prayer event was an opportunity for the community to come together in prayer. It was about more than just The Manheim Project; people could pray for our schools, businesses, youth, and first responders,” explained Minnish. “The Manheim Project is the thread that tied it together. The timing was intended to be at the start of the project.”

Additionally some White Oak Church volunteers camp out at the Manheim Farm Show buildings, which also serve as their base of operation.

“White Oak also hosted a Family Day; families could be seen throughout Manheim Borough picking up trash and litter along sidewalks. Family Day was capped off with a communal meal with volunteers from other churches participating in The Manheim Project, as well as the residents they assisted.

Pastor Jeffrey Schell (left) and Dave Garner revitalize a front porch. (Submitted by Trinity EC)

Planning ahead

Planning for the community outreach begins months in advance. Gochnauer said Trinity began planning at the beginning of the year. Minnich said that in order to notify people of the projects in each of the communities, notices are placed in newspapers and hung on homeowners’ doors. They direct people to call Love INC. which does an assessment of the family’s needs.

According to the organization’s website, Love INC. is a network of over 165 churches from throughout the county from 24 different denominations. It allows individual congregations to come together to “meet the needs of those in our community, one need at a time, by connecting caring church volunteers with people in need of their unique gifts”. Information from Love INC was forwarded to the overall project coordinators.

Organizers are already planning ahead for 2019.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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