Karen Richardson, a college student, works on Paula Martinez's front deck in Alamosa. Her sister Sydney and dad Frank were also part of the St. Paul's service group.
Courier photo by Ruth Heide
ALAMOSA — They came from Boulder with their hammers, drills, paintbrushes, stuffed animals and baby blankets …
… to make a difference in the lives of strangers in the San Luis Valley.
Today, 18-20 members of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church wrap up a week of service in the Alamosa and Monte Vista area where they have built fences, laid carpet and floor tile, constructed walls, fixed porch steps and roofs, replaced stucco … and even washed windows.
For some, this was their first mission/service trip. For others, like 73-year-old John Cross, trips like this are a normal part of their calendar. Cross has gone on 30 service trips and is not finished yet.
“We wanted it to be cross generational to involve as many people in our congregation,” said Steve Batch, a veterinarian who took time away from work to spend a week of service in the San Luis Valley. He said the youngest in the group this week was 12, and Cross, at 73, was the oldest.
The group also ranged from a college student to a town mayor and working professionals to retired volunteers, all connected by their desire to serve.
The group assisted three Valley nonprofit organizations this week: La Puente, specifically its food bank network and PALS youth program; Habitat for Humanity, which is building a house on Ross Avenue in Alamosa; and Christian Community Service Projects (CCSP), which counts on work groups like the one from Boulder to accomplish many projects for area families every summer.
For example, several members of the Boulder team spent time at Paula Martinez’s mobile home where they replaced tile and carpet flooring inside and shored up the front porch deck.
“We have been here 35 years and there’s never been anything done to this home,” said Martinez who lives with her daughter and three grandchildren in the mobile home.
“I am so happy.”
Bobby Dahlstrom, one of the St. Paul’s volunteers who had never been to this area before, said Martinez’s home was the third one this week they had visited with their tool belts.
“It’s been really fun,” he said. “Other than today’s rainstorm, the weather’s been great.”
Fortunately, they had already replaced the roof on their first house before Thursday’s deluge. While working on that house they noticed a dilapidated porch a couple of doors down and went down and fixed it up before leaving the neighborhood.
The part of the Boulder group working under CCSP Foreman Bob Jones then worked on stucco at a second home and enlarged a doorway for a lady with MS who had been unable to get her wheelchair through the existing door. The volunteers could hear her singing while they worked.
“She had a beautiful voice,” Dahlstrom said.
Another portion of the Methodist service group from Boulder helped with the Habitat for Humanity house construction on Ross Avenue.
“We get the greatest people in the country,” said Habitat Construction Foreman Mike Murphy. “There isn’t a bad one in the bunch.”
The Boulder group framed the inside walls at the Ross Avenue house and built and stained a fence at the property.
“There was a lot of planning in place,” Batch said. “They had materials already.”
The work group added muscle to the planning, and rooms inside the Habitat house took shape. The Boulder team met the family who will be occupying the house, Laura and Jacob, and watched their daughter see for the first time where her room would be.
“We talked about what this was all about … about who we serve,” Batch said.
He added that the week has been as much of a blessing for the service group members as the families they assisted.
“You definitely get more than you give,” he said.
Even members of the Boulder church who did not travel with the team contributed financially and in other ways.
For example, the church held a food drive that resulted in a pickup load of food being delivered to the food bank network in the Valley. The food came at a critical time for the food bank, which had been rationing its resources to make them stretch.
Members of the congregation, like Steve’s wife Martha made 72 receiving blankets that have been distributed to places like the Women’s Resource Center and PALS. Nationally known children’s author Claudia Mills, who attends the church in Boulder, donated books for the PALS youth and had planned to come to Alamosa with the service group but fell and could not make this trip. She has promised to come down when she is well again.
Another member of the congregation, whose house had burned 8-10 years ago, at the time had professionally cleaned his children’s stuffed animal collection. He donated about 50 of the stuffed animals to the PALS youth this week.
Sandra Jordan, who worked on the Habitat fence, relayed the message she hoped would encourage others to follow the Boulder group’s example: If a small Methodist church in Boulder, with 200 members at most, could accomplish what it did during this week of service, everyone else could make a difference too.