By Sonia Duggan
About 150 volunteers from the Chase Oaks Church 544 campus filtered out into the community April 25 as part of an annual church event called ShareFest. Two Wylie nonprofits and two schools benefitted as church members shared the love of Christ with acts of service.
There were three big projects planned for ShareFest along with some smaller projects taking place throughout the community. Project plans were carefully assessed weeks in advance, allowing project leaders time to plan, solicit volunteers and donations, gather supplies and recruit sponsors.
A team of 35 volunteers set up at the Hartman Elementary school cafeteria designing, cutting and sewing 500 handmade teacher appreciation gifts so that 100 staffers at Hartman Elementary and Achieve Academy will get one a day for the 5 days of teacher appreciation week held May 4-8. They created handmade key fobs, bookmarks, decorated cans of tea, seed packets and personalized clipboards.
“This includes decorating their lounge with garden theme this year,” Jamie Dunkle, Area Outreach Director for Chase Oaks said.
The Hartman and Achieve volunteer teams will also help serve at the schools as part of Teacher Appreciation week.
Campus Pastor Jason Williams said they also invited the community to pitch in by dropping by Hartman that day to donate clothes to go to Plano Clothes Closet, which supports all of Collin County.
Across town, 60—70 volunteers were undertaking an extensive project at the Amazing Grace Food Pantry at 1711 Parker Road.
“We’ll quite literally be doing an Extreme Makeover, replacing doors, rebuilding the outside deck/stairs, updating light fixtures, repairing the roof, beautifying the landscaping, leveling their driveway, etc.,” Williams said in his email sent April 16.
Church member Dave Stephenson and wife Lisa coordinated the effort acting as project managers. They had a construction manager assigned as well.
As guests showed up at the Pantry that Saturday morning to collect food, there was a team grilling hot dogs and serving chips and drinks especially for them.
“The regular Pantry day wasn’t disturbed, 55 families received their groceries along with refreshments. They visited with clients, prayed with whoever wanted prayer,” Pantry Board member Karen Ellis said.
The church collected donations for supplies for the Amazing Grace project in advance, but they also secured donations from corporate sponsors.
Big City Crushed Concrete donated three tons of gravel for the parking lot; Community Waste Disposal donated four dumpsters to collect the rubble. a T-shirt company donated two -dozen extra shirts for Amazing Grace volunteers and a Lucas nursery donated five flats of flowers. The team also called a foundation repair company to access the building and give an estimate for potential repair costs.
Inside the main Amazing Grace building many needed repairs were completed for the pantry, including hanging ceiling fans, replacing drywall in the cold room and bathroom.
In addition, ShareFest volunteers restocked and organized the depleted food pantry shelves.
Outside, they worked tirelessly in the heat to remove tons of rubble from the burned church building. It was slow going as wheelbarrow tires kept going flat with the weight of the debris.
“They laid 12 tons of rock to repair the driveway, replaced 2 doors, opened up a closet for better access to serve clients, created a flower bed and filled 2 30 yard dumpsters with the debris from the demolished building on the property,” Ellis said.
Amazing Grace staff and Williams are still collectively hoping they can secure a bulldozer to finish cleaning up the remnants of the burned church so the Pantry can move forward.
“Thank you Chase Oaks Church, you are laying up treasures in Heaven,” Ellis said.
Meanwhile, back in town, another local nonprofit, the Bridge Connection, benefitted from Chase Oaks ShareFest project as well.
“We had so many people sign up to help for ShareFest that we were able to open up a project at The Bridge Connection,” Dunkle said. “We had about 45 people working over there.”
The group serving at the Bridge Connection painted several huge walls and a bathroom, hung trim, sorted clothing, Christmas supplies, and 2000 pounds of food in their new facility located at 800 Vanesa Drive.
Dunkel said one of the parents helping at The Bridge Connection shared with her how she thought it was great for the teens helping on the project to see and sort the food and clothes and to realize that not everyone has the means to just go to the regular store and buy what they want when they want.
Ginger Shocklee called the volunteers “An amazing army of servants.”
“They did way more than I thought would get done today, even with the cramped space,” she said.
Her husband, Russell Shockee said, “This really says a lot about your church!”
“I think in the end though, we are the ones who walk away feeling more blessed, “ Dunkle said. “We are excited to continue partnering with Amazing Grace, Hartman Elementary, and The Bridge Connection.”
The Chase Oaks Church campus, open since January 2015, is located inside the B&B Theatre, 711 Woodbridge Pkwy, in Wylie. For more information, visit chaseoaks.org.