Blessings all the way around
A two-day project was coming to a close for the volunteers with Carolina Cross Connection (CCC) on Wednesday and tears were shed.
At the home of Theresa Bennings on Jackson Street in Forest City, the volunteers from Mooresville, Elkin, Hickory and Catawba gathered around the senior citizen and presented her with gifts.
Josh Presneoll placed a necklace around Bennings neck just like the one the volunteers wore the days they were building the handicapped accessible ramp at her home. Just like theirs, it was a piece of wood with her name written on the front. On the back were names of the volunteers.
The necklace featured eight knots, a knot for each youth and leader. They also presented Bennings a new Bible.
But the most cherished gift was the friendship and love Bennings gave the youth, they said.
With tears in her eyes, Bennings accepted the gifts from the volunteers and told them she'd miss them.
The feelings were mutual, they said.
Heidi Garaas of Mooresville has been a CCC volunteer for two years, spending all summer providing ministry projects for people such as Bennings.
"This is a lovely woman. She is my favorite of all," Garas said.
Garaas said she has never had construction training and didn't know the difference between an eight-point screwdriver and another screwer. But that didn't matter.
"We push ourselves to learn to do these things and we learn a lot," Garaas said.
"This is bearing fruit," said leader J.J. Morse of Mooresville, as he looked at the youth completing the handicapped ramp and cutting grass.
"This is a great opportunity for us to interact with new people and see what all is out there," said Ally Gentry of Elkin.
"Every year it is something new and getting to work in a new community," said Julia Chandler of Catawa.
The youth arrived at Bennings small modest home on Tuesday and said they were expecting to give her a blessing.
Instead they said they were the ones who were blessed.
"We were coming out here to help her and she is the one giving back to the community," said Reid Turner also of Elkin. "She makes a mean pound cake."
Bennings was on a waiting list for the project, said Jessica Hernandez of Forest City, who is the camp's field director this year. A sophomore at Yale University, Hernandez said she decided to come home for the summer and work with CCC.
"We try to help in the community and we try to show the greater love that God showed us," Hernandez said.
Last year Bennings' neighbor had a handicapped ramp constructed by CCC volunteers and she asked if it would be possible to be added to the list.
After the project was completed Wednesday evening, volunteers returned to Camp McCall in Golden Valley where they stayed during their week with CCC.
"There is no cell service," Hernandez said, which according the youth, was a pretty good idea, after all.
During the two days with Bennings home, volunteer Presneoll took time to play the guitar and sing. He's promised Bennings a copy as soon as it's released.
"She is so sweet, you could sop her up with a biscuit," Presneoll said.
Camp McCall is one of five locations in western North Carolina where the Summer Service Weeks volunteers are located.
CCC's purpose is to bring youth and adults together to form a Christian community for the purpose of serving God and better knowing the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; to spread the love of Christ in a larger community through the service to people in need and to provide opportunities for youth to practice leaderships skills, witness to their faith and grow in spiritual maturity.
In addition to handicapped accessible ramps, youth also do light home repairs, paint, clean up yards, and always share the love with the people they work.
In the evenings, campers return to camp for recreation, sharing, fellowship and games.
CCC volunteers will be assigned numerous projects in Rutherford County this summer from the list for Rutherford Housing Partnership projects.