Dozens of local teenagers came with big hearts and helping hands to spread the love of God through Mission McDuffie, a special Christian outreach ministry specifically designed to help those who can't help themselves with home repairs, etc. last week.
"The whole week was a tremendous blessing to me and a lot of other people, too," said Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry. A member of Thomson Presbyterian Church, Mayor Usry helped supervise a group of teenagers on various projects for four days last week. "They did all the work -- I didn't."
A total of 11 churches participated in this year's community ministry program. Those churches were: Mt. Tabor Baptist, Mt. Pleasant Missionary, Second Baptist Church, Pine Grove Baptist, Marshall Baptist, First Baptist of Thomson, Dearing Baptist, Faith Baptist, Thomson First United Methodist, Thomson Presbyterian and Fort Creek Baptist.
Also participating this year were some of the members of the Thomson Boys and Girls Club along with members of the Thomson High School Navy JROTC.
A total of 181teenagers participated in this year's Ninth Annual Mission McDuffie program. There also were 36 adults involved. The outreach ministry program received 40 work applications from residents with 35 of those requests being met. During the four-day, four-hour per day project a total of 3,312 man hours was worked.
Work was performed in 19 yards, 10 homes were painted, three decks repaired, two wheelchair ramps were built, one driveway repaired, one roof repaired and several truck loads of yard debris taken to the McDuffie County Landfill.
Those who participated in this year's Mission McDuffie program were treated to a pizza banquet in the fellowship hall at Thomson First United Methodist Church last Thursday night.
"I think they all did an exceptionally good job," said Mayor Usry, who saluted the teenagers for their hard work during the Thomson City Council meeting last Thursday night. "I commend the kids who participated. They were exceptionally nice and well-mannered. It was a real good week. I thoroughly enjoyed it."
The mayor noted there still is need to do more to help one another in the community and urged more church involvement through Mission McDuffie next year. The program again will be held the first week of June.
Anna Carrington, a rising eighth grader at Thomson-McDuffie County Middle School, was one of the teenagers who helped build a wheelchair ramp at the residence of a man on Wire Road near Thomson.
"It feels good to help people who can't help themselves," said Anna.
Rhett Hinesley, a member of Thomson First United Methodist Church and a rising senior at Thomson High School, has been involved with Mission McDuffie for four years.
"I missed it last year because I was on vacation with my family at the beach," said Rhett. "I'm glad I got the chance to help with the program again this year."
Rhett explained that it helps him grow as a Christian when he helps others.
"It really shows the love of God by what we're doing for other people," added Rhett, who hopes to become owner of a landscape business after graduating from high school and Georgia Southern University. "Seeing the smiles on the faces of the people we're able to help makes me happy. It warms your heart."
Chase Beggs, a rising freshman at Thomson High and a member of Thomson First Baptist Church, said, "It feels good to do things for other people. I like working outside."
Grace Blackmon-Hughes, a rising senior at THS, said she has participated in Mission McDuffie for the past four years.
"It means a lot to me to help people," said Grace. "Helping others shows God's love. It's something we can share with others. It really puts a lot of meaning into serving. I'd say this is a physical demonstration of God's love."
Sarah Holiman, a rising freshman at THS and a member of Faith Baptist Church, said at a worksite, "This is more fun than work. Sure, you're tired at the end of the day, but it's worth it when you look back and see what has been accomplished. It's life-changing. All of these people that get helped are just so grateful."
Larry Kent, a member of Pine Grove Baptist Church near Thomson and Randy Radford, a member of Dearing Baptist Church, supervised that group of teenagers.
"We're teaching them how to do the work," said Mr. Radford at the worksite. "They catch on pretty good."
Mr. Kent agreed.
"All you have to do is tell them how to do it and they do it," added Mr. Kent.
Another team leader was Jimmy Steptoe, a member of Sweetwater Baptist Church in Thomson.
"This was my first year being involved," said Mr. Steptoe, a retired captain with the Georgia Department of Wildlife Resources Law Enforcement Division. "I enjoyed being part of this. The kids have helped a lot of people in McDuffie County."
Chaz Smith, 16, a rising sophomore at THS and a member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, said, "It feels good to help in such an unselfish way. It really warms you up on the inside. I love spreading God's love this way."
Mitchell Powers, 14, a rising freshman at THS, said, "It's hard work, but at the end of the day, it makes you feel like a missionary."
Becky Rushton, 15, a rising freshman at THS, added, "It's a necessary thing to do and to help people less fortunate."
Karen Krome, another adult volunteer, said her 12-year-old daughter, Heather, volunteered her for this year's Mission McDuffie project.
"I'm so glad she volunteered me to do this," said Mrs. Krome. "The kids have been wonderful to work with. They have all worked so hard. It's a real blessing to see what God is doing in McDuffie County."