A team of 45 volunteers are performing repair projects in Pine Bluff through the Ozark Mission Project, a nonprofit Christian outreach organization. The volunteers are from church youth groups from several locations in Arkansas and other states. They are serving Pine Bluff residents who need minor home repairs through a summer camp from July 10-15. They are scheduled to complete more than 30 service projects in Pine Bluff at no cost to recipients.
Travis Clark is an Ozark Mission Project college staff employee who is overseeing one group of teenagers. They are building a wheelchair ramp and a porch for a Pine Bluff family.
“It’s a chance to be able to go out into the community and be the hands and feet of Jesus,” said Clark, 20, a student at Harding University. “It’s a neat opportunity. You can go to church and never get a real opportunity to go out into the community. This is one of those opportunities.”
The volunteers are staying at First United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff. Clark said he used to be a camper for five years with Ozark Mission Project.
“I fell in love with the Mission Project, and of course I am going to dedicate my summer to the Mission Project because it’s the best way you can spend the summer,” Clark said.
Maggie Rogers is also an Ozark Mission Project college staff employee and student at the University of Central Arkansas. A native of White Hall, Rogers said Christians serve where they are planted.
“OMP is all about building relationships; that’s why we are here,” Rogers said. “Whenever we choose a location to have a camp, we like to come back in three years. We can really work on the relationships we have with our neighbors who are the people that we come out and do work for. People always say that we are the ones who are such a blessing to them, but in reality, the neighbors are such a blessing to us. Being able to come out here and realize that no matter where you come from or what circumstances you are handed in life, you are all children of God and you are all of one body.”
Rogers said the volunteers are working at multiple locations in Jefferson County, including White Hall and Pine Bluff. Rogers said serving next to her hometown carries extra significance.
“People always go to faraway places but I thought why can’t we make a difference where we are?” Rogers said. “This is where our home is and this is where we are planted.”
Mikayla Stertmann, 15, is entering tenth grade at White Hall High School and was part of a team holding a wooden board as Travis Dacon, 13, measured the board and cut it. They worked with Olivia Aud, 15, and Renee Godwin, an adult volunteer.
“I am a people person, and I love to help people,” Stertmann said. “I go to the White Hall United Methodist Church, and we collect food, pick up trash and do OMP. I found out about it this year. This is my first year and so far I love it.”
Stertmann credited her mother, Susan Francis, and grandmother, Beth Hatcher, for instilling a spirit of Christian service in her. Dacon lives in Garland, Texas, and came to Pine Bluff to volunteer. He performed a similar mission trip in Oklahoma last year.
“My dad told me that not only people in Garland need help,” Dacon said. “We’ve already helped quite a bit of people at our church in Garland and we need to help more people.”
Godwin is also from Garland, Texas, and drove the teenagers to Pine Bluff.
“I love to come out; it gives me a lot of joy and pleasure to see these kids and how they work through God,” Godwin said. “They enrich other people’s lives from what they are doing.”
Godwin said the volunteers were enjoying Pine Bluff, learning new skills and meeting people.
“We let the kids do the hands-on work,” Godwin said. “We jump in when we need to but we want this experience to be for them.”