When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Wayne Patterson wanted to make a difference. Call it what you will—a calling, an obligation, a duty. No matter the term, Patterson felt the need to help.
And Patterson wasn’t the only one. An entire team of eight to twelve near-retirees from his home church of First Baptist Church, Pendleton, S.C., felt called to help out the people who had experienced near-incomprehensible damage. So, from 2005 to 2010, the members of this group of recreational handymen and problem-solvers went to the Gulf Coast to assist families recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As they did so, the group figured out something: They were good at it. The team from FBC Pendleton had an epiphany: “This could work in our own community.”
And just like that, the Hands-on Ministry was born in 2008. To date, they’ve done over 100 home renovation projects all around Pendleton, Townville and Easley, S.C.
“I had an interest in doing something and this was something I could do. And it’s definitely a service that’s needed,” said Patterson.
Although the initiative was originally designed to help low-income families or those who might have recently had surgery, had encountered health problems, or were facing some other debilitating issue, the Hands-on Ministry team has become well-known around their Upstate South Carolina community for providing good work to a variety of people at no cost. Whether they are members of FBC Pendleton or not, the team is committed to providing home repair and work projects to the people in need in their community. From projects ranging from ramps, to hand railings, to roof work, to bathtub installation, the team has done it all. It’s what led to them to become a church-funded organization, and an extremely efficient one at that.
“When we have someone in our church who is being released from rehab or something like that, it’s nice to have a team of people that can help them,” said Jennifer Rygg, pastor at FBC Pendleton. “We also help lots of other people in the community, whether they are church members or not.”
Each person in the group has one very interesting characteristic in common: They are far from being professionals. Although they all come from different professions: only one of them had worked as a builder, none of the rest were professional construction workers, carpenters, woodworkers or anything of the sort. It’s something that makes the group special and also makes their progress that much more impressive.
“We’ve gotten better at it,” said Patterson. “Projects that used to take us a couple days to finish are now taking us half-a-day. But we’ve had to stop doing roofs because grey hair and roofs just don’t go together.”
For Patterson, one of the biggest takeaways from his handy work over the years has been the depth of the need in his own community. Patterson has learned, from the Gulf Coast to Upstate South Carolina, that you can’t judge a house by the outside. Getting an inside look into the conditions of the houses that some people live in was shocking to him, but also motivating.
“We’ve gone into houses of people only two miles away from our church to evaluate them and stepped right through the floor,” said Patterson. “You just don’t think of people living like that. And if they simply reach out to us, the problems are not really that hard to fix.”
Although they have already accomplished so much, the group faces one critical issue: their age. What started as a conglomeration of multiple near- and young-retirees in the mid-2000s has slowly over time become an older group. Although they still have many years of building projects and fellowship ahead of them and, in spite of the fact that they’ve more than accomplished their mission, there is still a need for new members to join the team.
“While we have some younger people who are interested, they don’t have as much time as retirees,” said Rygg. “It’s exciting that the ministry has lasted this long; but it’s something I’m hoping we can figure out for the future.”
Although the ministry was already in place in the mid-2000s, it became a serious mission initiative through the It’s Time grant it received from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which provided the group enough money to buy all of their needed materials so that neither the Church or homeowners had to provide them. Eventually we added a church budget line for Hands-on Missions which, along with other designated church funding, makes the group more able than ever to provide necessary help to people around their community.
“The grant was really a big boost that got the ball rolling and gave us the incentive to expand,” said Patterson. “With the help of the grant, we could even do roofing work by hiring help. It really made a difference.”