By: Katie Sobiech
Jeremy Veppert is Executive Director of Project Shine, a work-mission camp for church youth groups. He remembers growing up in a church where they didn’t go outside of their walls to work with any other churches.
After experiencing the positive results of working with other churches in serving the community later in life, Veppert has learned much about “breaking down the walls” that tend to separate church congregations.
“Working with other churches broadens your horizons to see that there are other things going on outside of the walls that you live in,” Veppert said.
Every summer Project Shine (PS) welcomes youth groups to gather for one week to serve the community through various work projects including painting, electrical, plumbing, hanging drywall and siding, yard work and any other household or yard projects that need to be done in the city of Kenmore.
“We can also go in and spring clean someone’s house,” Veppert said, explaining “The Kenmore community is an elderly community and so although what we do may seem small it can really brighten someone’s day.”
Bringing the Community Together
“We are very community based,” Veppert said, “Right now we only operate in Kenmore. So instead of going on an out-of-state missions trip a church youth group can come to a local missions trip and see the community side of mission work. We’re trying to get churches to come together. We want cohesiveness within the community.”
PS actually came to be when two youth ministries, both from Kenmore, bumped into each other in 2001. It all occurred after the youth ministries of Hope United Methodist Church and Goss Memorial Church attended the same work camp in East Bank, West Virginia. Neither of them knew the other church was there until staying next to each other in the school where the camp operated.
“Now we have been able to break down the denominational walls and come together for one, unified purpose. More hands are more beneficial to those in need,” Veppert said.
PS currently has ten churches, mostly in the greater Akron area, that participate in the program.
“This also allows students to come and build relationships with other Christians from other local youth groups,” Veppert said.
In the past, camp was one week during the summer. This is the first year that the two-week camp will begin.
Serving approximately 25-30 homes a week, the youth groups stay on site all week, work from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and then enjoy a worship service, band and speaker. Normally staying at churches, Veppert is now working with the city of Akron to allow them to stay at schools in the area.
“This gives us a good opportunity to work with the city,” he said.
PS wants the teens to have a good mixture of teamwork, work ethic, praise and worship and fun.
The Impact of Serving
After serving for nine years Veppert says, “There have been a lot of great responses from people who are overwhelmed by just the simple fact that there are people coming out and helping them. They feel a sense of community when they see churches in the community coming and working together.”
He continued, “Just the simple thought of ‘Hey, somebody cares about me. Somebody’s doing something for me and I don’t owe them anything’ is great. It’s an eye opener for many people to see students in Kenmore and other communities who tend to get a bad reputation. This gives them an opportunity to change that.”
From time to time PS comes across a resident who needs ongoing support, which they do their best to provide. They follow up with all residents for an entire year after visiting their homes, whether that means picking up prescriptions, raking leaves or taking care of another simple task that doesn’t come easy for some.
“We want to be a year-round influence in the community,” Veppert said, “It’s amazing to see how volunteers can come together and do something so great for the community and so great for Christ.”
“Project Shine has a lot ahead of us. We’re only in the beginning stages. We have very part-time staff but are looking to grow. One of our dreams is to set up our project in other communities. We would love to take it to Tallmadge, Ellet, North Hill and places like that. We just need to get some churches on board that are willing to help,” Veppert said.