They came by the hundreds across the Tampa Bay area, driven by their faiths, all united under one banner: To help others and turn the spirit of their beliefs beyond the church doors.
Locally, CareFest 2015 saw more than 100 volunteers from South Shore churches complete projects ranging from painting, cleaning up gardens at schools to repairing plumbing.
“Most of the work were things the homeowners could not do themselves, from yardwork to painting,” said Norris Brown, Outreach Pastor at South Bay Church and coordinator for 20 projects with more than 100 volunteers. “Projects were of such a scope and scale that they simply could not have done it without some help.”
Other South Shore churches accounted for another 10 projects and dozens more volunteers. “It was really a joint community church effort led by Norm Blanton, who represents Somebody Cares Tampa Bay,” said Brown. “He was a valuable resource in keeping our team on track and getting the word out to the community.”
Local schools and nonprofits also benefited from the effort. “We know how stressed nonprofits are, so we wanted to go in there and offer some manpower and resources to them,” said Brown. As a result, Mary & Martha House as well as My Warrior’s Place saw volunteers turn out to help Saturday.
Laying the groundwork for the project, CareFest contacted local churches and other groups to help identify needs in the community and also recruited volunteers for small projects that can be completed in a few hours by a small group but are often beyond the abilities of homeowners.
Josh Balogh, NextGen Pastor at South Bay Church, was among those happily sweating Saturday morning as a volunteer, pressure washing buildings and sidewalks.
“I just wanted to show the love of God to people and minister to them,” Balogh said. Taking the message beyond a church’s doors is “essential,” Balogh said. “It’s got to be more than loving those that come to us but going to those who may never set foot in a church building to show them that God loves them.”
“Churches should first look to serve the community,” said Brown. “What the church believes should be visible in the community. South Bay Church believes in reaching out to the community. That’s the vision of our Senior Pastor David Speicher and Executive Pastor David Oates,” said Brown.
Single-parent families, the elderly, the disabled and low-income families are most often the beneficiaries of the work.
“Many people think you have to go across the world to do something significant but there are opportunities right in our own neighborhoods,” said Brown.
Similar events took place throughout the Bay area, with CareFest’s armies of volunteers sweeping through Dunedin, Tampa and St. Petersburg, armed with brushes, shovels and trash bags, helping those who need assistance with small projects.
For more information on the group, visit www.carefestusa.com.