Volunteers use C-N Summer Service for Team Development

Skilled communication - Volunteers from Knoxville’s Wallace Memorial Baptist Church, Don Hall (rear) and Claude Grubb, work to install whiteboards in Chambliss Hall, home of Social Sciences. In span of five weeks, volunteers came from 23 churches to help accomplish dozens of renovation and maintenance projects. Leaders say the partnership also yields benefits for teams in other service situations.

Carson-Newman’s mission of Christian higher education has taken on a new meaning for several church groups and Disaster Relief teams over the past several summers, according to TBC-affiliated coordinators. Groups that have traveled to the Jefferson City campus for a week of service have found the effort quite beneficial in the present and for the future.

While volunteers have given thousands of service hours that have helped C-N, Baptist Builder coordinator George Bradley says teams in turn learn valuable lessons in organization, skill assessment and general cooperation. The work has included everyday tasks like pressure cleaning to large renovation projects in residence halls.

While Bradley notes there are “big differences” between some church groups, Baptist Builders and those trained through DR programs, he said all receive benefits and blessings from partnering with TBC-affiliates like C-N.

“There are many things that happen, like giving a team the chance to bond and learn things together. It’s very helpful when people know each other and have experience working together,” he explained.

“Folks who work with Disaster Relief are trained, given badges and serve as first responders in the event of tornados, hurricanes and other catastrophes. Later, Baptist Builders come in and help people start putting their lives back together when the National Guard leaves,” he explained.

While some may be surprised by the intensity of DR’s training regimen and its strictures, Bradley says it’s “absolutely necessary” that those who respond to catastrophes be both knowledgeable and credentialed “for safety’s sake.” There are within Tennessee more than 11,000 trained volunteers from churches and associations who are ready to respond quickly in the event of a disaster.

Given that much of the training is geared for individuals who are already on a team, or willing to join one, Bradley said non-disaster opportunities can be essential. He said that he and his wife Margaret were prepared but idle when they first joined Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief. “We trained and were ready for two years before something happened. We got the t-shirt, had the badge, but there was nothing to do.”

Having coordinated volunteer teams at C-N for three summers, Bradley says he has seen firsthand many benefits, not the least of which is cost. “There are some opportunities that just are not affordable in these economic times, and there are lots of people who want to help but can’t afford two or three hundred dollars to work.”

Bradley said the ability to stay in C-N’s residence halls and the provision of meals keeps the registration fee affordable at $60 per volunteer. The Bradleys coordinate volunteers and see to administrative tasks, while Everett and Joyce Willis lead the projects and provide meals, respectively.

Tom Rice, DR coordinator for Cumberland Plateau Association, said one of several things that have been “a real blessing” is the “teamwork that it takes to get projects completed.”

“Not having something to do is the best way there is to kill a team. Bringing them here helps keep them involved,” said Rice, who affirmed Bradley’s assertion about costs. Given a limited amount of financial resources, he said the two-hour drive from the Plateau to Jefferson City and low registration fee “help extend (our) funds.”

Rice said his group consisted of 13 volunteers from two churches, Memorial Baptist and Lantana Road Baptist. While participants ranged from as young as 12 to 80, each seemed to appreciate the chance to help. Cumberland Plateau’s DOM Kirk Casey and other team members were able to get to know C-N President Randall O’Brien, his wife Kay and several C-N employees during their service.

The DR coordinator says that helps his team members connect with people who benefit from their service.

“We want to see them succeed,” Rice said of O’Brien and company. “We learn more about C-N every time we come. We even have students stop and thank us for our work.”

C-N leaders say the mutually beneficial program has provided much needed labor during the recession of the last few years. Early estimates from the most recent effort suggest that 108 volunteers from 23 churches over the course of five weeks generated more than 3300 service hours. That is worth almost $25,000 in labor, using the minimum wage figure of $7.25 per hour.

Recent work comprised 45 main projects, many of which had subprojects as part of the overall objective. Work ranged from the routine, including tree pruning and shrubbery trimming to parking lot restriping an installation of classroom whiteboards, to a comprehensive sprucing up of Heritage Residence Hall and refinishing the floor in Stephens-Burnett Library’s basement.

While the savings certainly help C-N stretch its resources, O’Brien said there has been a “grand bonus” that has manifested itself over the last several summers.

“There is a fellowship that has developed that is pretty amazing. People from all over have come here as a way to help, and in doing that, they have developed what is a new understanding of Christian higher education. Whether it’s a youth group, adult class, seniors or some combination of all of those, they leave here with a sense of stake-holding. And I’m so glad of that.

“We are in partnership together for God’s glory and we want people to benefit from what we do. It’s great to know that their service here, which blesses us so very much, also better equips them as they respond to disasters or helping people rebuild their lives. It’s another lesson of how God can simultaneously provide for different needs in the same action. ”

The Cumberland Plateau team reaps deferred benefits as well.

“Every time we go on a mission trip we go home with so many blessings,” said Rice. “It becomes addictive to us – we want to do more.”