River of Life improves Macon-area homes for needy

jwilliams@macon.comJuly 11, 2013 

River of Life improves Macon-area homes for needy

By Saturday afternoon, a wheelchair ramp will lead from the front door of Ruthie Brown’s house, which will get a new coat of paint.

“It’s like a dream come true,” she said Thursday.

Without the ramp, the 77-year-old needs more than one family member to help her in and out of her home.

The improvements to her home on Kings Park Circle in Bibb County are just some of the projects being tackled this week by volunteers with River of Life, hosted by Forest Hills United Methodist Church. The organization is partnering with Rebuilding Macon and the local Habitat for Humanity.

Crew leader John Walker said the more than 220 volunteers, about 180 of whom are students, come from across Georgia and part of Florida to the Macon church for the four-day event.

This year River of Life volunteers are serving 28 homeowners by working on two roofs, 16 various repair jobs, 21 painting projects and two wheelchair ramps in lower-income neighborhoods. Walker said the first year Forest Hill ever hosted the event, there were about 45 people, and he estimates that over the past 12 years the volunteers have touched more than 500 homes in the Macon area.

“There are two goals: to impact the homeowners and to impact the kids,” Walker said of the event.

Crew leader Chris Frischkorn has been working with River of Life in Macon from the start. He said it’s a great opportunity for the students to learn how to serve the community and that their desire to serve is contagious. That much was apparent from the attitude of the 15 or so young people working on Brown’s house.

“When I was 12 years old, I went with my church, and I’ve been coming back ever since,” said Adam Schaffner, who has returned to Macon from near Savannah for his 10th year. “I enjoy being able to come out here and do something good.”

At the other end of the spectrum is 12-year-old Ryleigh Sharp, who arrived from Sharpsburg for her first year participating. She said her older brother and sister have been part of River of Life for years and always returned home, saying how fun it was and how good they felt afterward.

Amanda Bryant, an 18-year-old from Turin, said she likes taking time out of her life to help other people, and she finds the painting project to be fun.

“I’m a country girl,” she said. “I like getting dirty and getting my hands on things.”

It’s Julie Bowling’s first year as an adult volunteer, and the Rome resident said it’s a wonderful experience supervising the younger participants.

“I love being around a group of kids who have given up four days of their summer instead of sleeping in or playing Xbox,” she said.

To contact writer Jaime Williams, call 744-4331.

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