As poverty and violence threatened his neighborhood, Leroy Werkhoven, a member of Sunnyside (Wash.) Christian Reformed Church, knew that complaining about the problem would not help.
Instead, Werkhoven and a small group of church members started an initiative called “Loving Sunnyside” to demonstrate their love for the neighborhood.
Volunteers paint home exteriors, clean up yards, and mow lawns for neighbors who are elderly, have disabilities, or struggle with finances. They’ve painted twenty-nine homes in the Sunnyside neighborhood so far. Their most recent work day brought out 200 volunteers.
It takes 30-45 individuals six hours to scrape, prime, and apply two coats of paint to a home. Volunteers also provide breakfast and lunch to all workers. Volunteers from the church are often joined by high school students fulfilling community service credits, members from four other churches in the neighborhood, and volunteers from community service organizations.
Werkhoven said he oversees a follow-up team that will assist these homeowners for a year and seek to bring them into the fellowship of a Christian organization.
“Simply painting a house is not reaching as far as we need to,” he said.
Werkhoven said the initiative has made church members more aware of the struggles in their church neighborhood and how they can help. “When you walk on [a person’s] property that has been neglected, you discover who they are. It is a lot different than driving by at 50 miles per hour.
“If you simply ignore poverty, the problems multiply. We are going to reach out and help.”