STORIES from C.O.O.L. Day 2015 - Massillon, OH

C.O.O.L. Day Snapshots:

Laurel - “Perennial Lady”

Laurel prayed last year that C.O.O.L. would choose her neighborhood.  Her church, First Baptist, had been a part of C.O.O.L. past 2 years. When initially her street was not on the list, she said her prayers were for her neighbors, not just her.  She provided a huge number of perennials for the project from her garden.

Jeanie - Apartment tenant on Wellman Ave.

Jeannie had a sign near her front door that read, “God bless the COOL people!”  She said she was so happy for her neighbors.  Her landlord takes good care of her building so no COOL help was needed.  She called the Independent to tell them about COOL.  “This is the church at its best!"

Dale - Resident

It was still early in the day when I met Dale, but he stands out clearly in my memory because he was so similar to the men I love and respect most in my life—a hard worker whose greatest concern is for others.  Dale spent our time telling me about his wife who had just undergone knee replacement surgery and how grateful he was that the crew was replacing his front steps so that she could get in and out of the house more easily.  And then he began to speak about his elderly neighbors, Marvin and Almalinda, how excited he was that they had agreed to allow a crew to work on their house, how he prayed regularly for Marvin to come to know Christ as his Savior, and how hard Marvin worked to take care of his home.

Michelle - Resident

Michelle spent most of the day walking around the neighborhood with her 3 month old baby, Annabelle, in a carrier strapped to her chest. She and her boyfriend, Charlie, had wanted to do improvements to Charlie’s family home when they moved in, but when she found out that a baby was on the way, every extra penny that might have been spent on the house went towards the expense of adding a member to their little family.  So when she found out about C.O.O.L., she was excited.

But nothing that had been said in the preparation for C.O.O.L. could have prepared her for what she saw that day.  Over and over again, she expressed her amazement—she was speechless and overwhelmed, shocked at the huge number of people who had showed up to help her neighborhood.  As we talked about the enormity of all that was going on around her, she told me that she was overwhelmed by the thought that in such a selfish society, she was in the middle of something that was anything but selfish. 

Lyal & Alan - Residents                                     

The volunteers that worked on Lyal and Alan's home removed major debris and did weeding in the front and back yards.  Lyal and Alan became motivated weeks prior to “prep” for C.O.O.L. They fixed their outdoor swing on their own and sat on it throughout C.O.O.L. Day and since daily.  “Why would anyone turn this down.  Why would anyone not want this” - Alan 

Sandy - C.O.O.L. volunteer

My conversation with Sandy was brief, but what she had to say was profound.  When asked what she saw when she looked around her, she commented that she saw Christians working together in unity, and that it was a beautiful thing, the kind of thing that deserved to be front page news.

Andrea - C.O.O.L. volunteer

Andrea is the Massillon City Council Representative for the Wellman neighborhood that C.O.O.L. served this year.  She told me about the City Council meeting where it was announced that C.O.O.L. was coming to Wellman, commenting that she was extremely excited by the good news.  She also told me that prior to this decision, she had already organized a neighborhood cleanup day for the Saturday preceding C.O.O.L.  She was thrilled at the "coincidental" timing, and she was smiling when she said that she hoped that C.O.O.L. would be the motivation for future improvement to the community.

Mail lady

The mail lady who serves the Wellman neighborhood took her time delivering the mail on C.O.O.L. Day.  When I approached her and apologized for any way in which we'd unintentionally made her job more difficult, she stopped me.  She said that it was no trouble at all to work around us, and that she enjoyed watching us all work.  She went on to point out a house and explain that the homeowner had been going through a rough time and that she was glad that C.O.O.L. was helping him out and giving some much needed encouragement. As she walked away, she thanked us for all that we were doing.

Dan & Kathy and crew - C.O.O.L. volunteers

I ended my day by spending some quality time with Dan and Kathy Hartman and their crew.  I sat and ate supper with them as they took a break from their enormous project: a full house paint and a porch rebuild. And what I saw was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ at work. They were clearly exhausted and most of them were covered in a considerable amount of paint, but they were still going. They talked and laughed and worked together as a family unit even while they were eating. Several of the ladies supervised the distribution of pizza, some discussed the work that still needed to be done, and others made sure that the children on the site were taken care of.

When the meal ended and it was time to get back to work on the house, I watched as they interacted.  Their rapport and camaraderie was obvious even from a distance: a hand to the shoulder, shared laughter, good natured teasing… They looked like a family. They looked the way that brothers and sisters should look.  They looked like Jesus.

Shane - C.O.O.L. volunteer

Shane, the pastor at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, was thrilled at the opportunity to simply be a volunteer on C.O.O.L. Day this year. He liked that he could just show up and work hard instead of having to be in charge.  He’d anticipated interaction with the other volunteers working on the same house, but he didn’t anticipate what God had planned: spending time with a former classmate, Shawn, who was working with C.O.O.L. in order to complete a community service requirement. The two men struck up a conversation as they painted together, catching up on the years that they’d not seen each other. As you might expect, the conversation turned to spiritual things as they talked, and Shane was able to share how Christ had been the difference maker in his life.  When it was time for Shawn to leave, Shane felt comfortable inviting him to church so that they might continue their conversation. 

In the several weeks following C.O.O.L., Shawn attended church at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship.  He brought his children, his girlfriend Rebecca, and her children with him.  On their second Sunday at the church, Rebecca called Shane over to her following the service.  She wanted to know what it meant to be saved and what she had to do to become a Christian.  Later that day, she prayed with Shane and accepted Christ.

Justine - Resident

When I first heard about Justine, it was from Linda Crofut, the C.O.O.L. Prayer Walk Coordinator.  Linda had been walking around in the morning, offering to pray with anyone who wanted to pray.  Justine was standing on her front porch, visibly upset.  Her team had been delayed in their arrival, and Justine was feeling very disappointed.  She told Linda that she’d been let down a lot in her life, and that she feared it was happening again.  Linda listened and prayed with her.  Their prayer had barely ended when Justine’s team arrived, apologizing for their delay.

Later in the day, I was able to speak with Justine personally.  She was all smiles, ecstatic about all the work that had been done to her house and talking in an excited voice about all that was yet to be completed. As I spoke to her, she reached over to one of the volunteers and put her arm around her, declaring how much she loved the team working on her home and how grateful she was for their hard work.

Almalinda - Resident

The first thing Almalinda told me when I asked her about C.O.O.L. was that she really wanted to join us and work as a volunteer.  I don’t doubt that she meant it, too: she told me at least three times that next year, she wanted an orange t-shirt.

Almalinda, however, wasn’t able to spend a lot of time at her with us on C.O.O.L. Day.  She was only home for a short time getting a few things so that she could rejoin her husband, Marvin, who had been hospitalized the night before with pancreatitis. Her love and concern for her husband was obvious. She wanted us to know what a good man he was—that he had rescued her from the very worst part of New York City and given her a better life that she’d ever dreamed she could have. As she gestured behind her, indicating her beautiful home, she told us how grateful she was to have ended up where she is.

Carla - Resident

As we began to talk, Carla warned me that she might have trouble answering my questions because she was so emotional. And sure enough, not long after we started, we had to pause because both of us had lumps in our throats.

Carla spoke of how excited she was to see people everywhere.  Not only was she amazed to see large amount of volunteers, but she was thrilled to see her neighbors outside of their houses and interacting with one another.  She told me that she loved seeing all of these people come together for a common purpose, and she especially loved that the purpose was helping others. 

Kelly - Resident

Kelly lives in her family home, a house she inherited from her father and shares ownership of with her siblings.  While her initial fear when she first heard about C.O.O.L. was that it was too good to be true, Kelly was one of the few homeowners who went to the first resident meeting and signed up at the very beginning.  She was excited that C.O.O.L. would help her continue the work she’d already done on her house and do far more than she could have managed on her own.

She referred to her house as the “kid house” on the street, explaining that she would rather have all of the children in the neighborhood come to her house and play with her daughter so that she could keep an eye out for everyone. When the kids were at her house, she had always had to keep them off of the front porch—she feared that the porch’s structure wasn’t sound and that the children might hurt themselves.  But C.O.O.L. volunteers were redoing the porch, and making it safe for kids again.  She was grateful that she would be able to continue inviting the neighborhood children to her home without fear for their safety.

Kelly confided before I left that she was exhausted, explaining that she hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before.  Apparently, she was so excited for C.O.O.L. Day that she couldn’t fall asleep, and she woke up at 5 that morning so that she could be sure that everything was ready for her crew to start work.

Charlie - Resident

Charlie’s girlfriend Michelle was the first person to hear about C.O.O.L., and she was on board from the beginning, extremely excited by the opportunity to have their house worked on. However, Charlie was more cautious.  He wasn’t ready to say yes right away, and he was unsure of what to think.  However, by the time C.O.O.L. Day came around, you’d have never guessed that Charlie was anything other than enthusiastic about the project.

He was very grateful for the work done on his home, a house that had been previously occupied by his grandmother and his mom, but what stands out most in my memory was Charlie’s excitement for the entire neighborhood.  Before the day started, he had walked the neighborhood, taking “before” pictures.  And throughout the day, Charlie would periodically stop working at his house so that he could document the progress on all of the homes.  He told me with a huge smile on his face that he loved watching the changes that were being made and that he’d love to be a volunteer next year.

Reverend Candace - C.O.O.L. volunteer

I didn’t even have to ask Reverend Candace any questions.  She somehow knew exactly what to say.  Here is the story she told:

The home she was working on needed some cement work done on the sidewalk. The crew had just completed the area that needed to be done when a little boy ran through the new cement, unaware that it was still fresh. When he realized what he had done, he froze, sure that he was going to get into a lot of trouble. And while he may have deserved a scolding, the crew and volunteers laughed instead, telling the boy that he had done what everyone else had secretly wanted to do: make their mark in the cement.

They smoothed out the footprints, and chose to make what could have been a frustrating setback into a lesson about grace and forgiveness for the child and anyone else who may have witnessed the mishap.  After all, the day wasn’t so much about the work being done as much as it was about displaying the love of Christ to this little boy and to the entire neighborhood.

Copyright (c) 2015 C.O.O.L. (Community Outreach Of Love).  All rights reserved.

 

Credits:     

Interviews and Journalism by:

Sarah Senften

Jerry Seger