Aiken's First Baptist Church helps neighbors in need

Apr. 28—Two local homes are getting a substantial facelift this week with the blessing of Aiken's First Baptist Church, amid an outreach project titled "Mission: HERE."

The acronym stands for "Helping Everyone Reach Everyone," and the arrangement has involvement from kindergartners through retirees.

Volunteer crews began work Thursday morning at a house on Marlboro Street and another on Shiloh Heights Road, and hopes are to wrap up the projects Saturday, having focused on such areas as window scraping, priming, painting, shutter replacements and general yard work.

The outreach effort began in 2022, but activities were in mid-July, which was rough on some participants, said Mary McQuinn, chairman of the church's mission committee.

"We... decided that everybody was interested in doing it during the spring. That is one of the few things that's different. We have partnered with the United Way once again, and they identified two homes for us," she said.

The plan for Saturday is to have 12 additional workers on board, in the approximate age range of 11 to 15, adding to the adult mix from Thursday and Friday. "The youngest this year, I think, are three or four 3-year-olds, and we go all the way up to some people in their 80s."

Gift baskets to be given to the homeowners are also part of the mix — an arrangement that allows participation by volunteers who might not be in a position to perch on a ladder or wield a paintbrush or power tool.

"We have a lot of craft projects and things like homemade jellies that can go into the gift baskets. We have a prayer quilt ministry at church, where there's a group of people that make quilts, and we tie the knot in the quilts along with a prayer, and so we've made quilts for each of the homeowners, and the quilts have been passed around the church to have the knots tied. Our goal is to involve as many people at church as possible in the opportunity to do missions with our neighbors," McQuinn said.

Bud Zipf, who led the way in arranging for the work on Shiloh Heights Road, noted that the 2022 effort included three houses — a major challenge. "Last year, a couple of us went for several more days. This year, we wanted to make sure we got done, within the three days, what we were doing for them. Last year, we were a little bit stretched with three," he said.

David McGuire, who led the effort on Marlboro Street, said he and Zipf considered several houses for possible service and settled on two that are reasonably close to the church, in terms of ease of access.

He added, "It's commendable that there was a cross-section of the church membership, from youth to senior adults — experienced adults — and various skill levels, too. We can accommodate people that can do real carpentry or just do the gardening and weed-pulling."

Lizzie Abshire, with the United Way of Aiken County, noted that her organization has undertaken similar projects in recent years with such congregations as Grace United Methodist, St. John's United Methodist, Millbrook Baptist and First Presbyterian of Aiken.