The Union Recorder

Local News

July 12, 2014

River of Life begins its 17th year aiding the community

MILLEDGEVILLE — First United Methodist Church's 17th annual River of Life began Thursday and is set for another successful year.

Four hundred volunteers from nine churches across the state gathered to assist with the four-day project where they will help build wheelchair ramps and restore old homes and communities all while giving themselves a time for praise and worship.

River of Life Coordinator Marty Sermons said the project would not be possible without First United Methodist churches, the source of about 80 percent of the volunteers.

The volunteers are made up of rising seventh-graders and up, with 250 working on-site and the rest helping with transportation and meals.

Volunteers reside in the Georgia College Adams Hall dorm Thursday through Saturday night, allowing them to all wake up and go to breakfast together on time.

There is also a group of rising sixth-graders called Little River that help on-site during the day, but do not stay in the dorms.

After breakfast, the volunteers work at their assigned sites until lunch. Then they return to their sites to work until 3 p.m. when they return to the dorm for relaxation time and dinner.

Each night at 8 p.m. all volunteers gather at the John Milledge Academy Trojan Center for praise and worship, which allows them to reflect on the work they are doing and share their experiences with each other.

FUMC's new senior pastor, Mac Enfinger, is very impressed in his first year working with River of Life.

“It is very well-planned and organized,” Enfinger said.

“So much work goes into not only picking the sites and going to work, but also making sure everyone is where they need to be.”

The smiles he saw on the faces of those receiving assistance showed him that the project really is something special.

One man who was having a wheelchair ramp built at his home even told Enfinger that he hopes one day he will be in good enough shape to do for others what these volunteers are doing for him.

River of Life is also teaming up again this year with Habitat for Humanity to restore homes in Harrisburg and revitalize the area.

River of Life Registration Coordinator Diane Deariso said that while most would not expect a group of young people to be excited about waking up early to go work out in the hot sun, this project gives them the motivation.

“You can tell how committed the kids are by how they don't want it to end,” Deariso said.

“They do moan and groan some early in the morning, but there is no problem getting them up and going.”

And if there was any doubt that this project has an impact on the volunteers, GCSU graduate student and first time volunteer Chelsea Rutherford said: “For anyone concerned about the youth of the nation, come spend some time in middle Georgia. In the hour I have spent on my job site this morning I have already seen a beautiful collective heart for service in four 14-year-olds and one 13-year-old. They are blessing me and I'm proud to be working alongside them to assist a woman who needs it.”

Volunteers will continue their work through Sunday morning, when they will check out of their dorms and gather for worship and goodbyes at First United Methodist.

“It's sort of like a big family reunion each year,” Sermons said, who hopes that River of Life will continue this success for many years.

For more information on how to get involved with River of Life, visit milledgevillefumc.org.

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