By Stanley Campbell
Let me put on my official Rockford Urban Ministries (RUM) hat and thank Rockford’s Human Services Department and the city council and aldermen for approving $18,000 for RUM’s summer Work Camp program.
Since 1999, RUM has enticed and cajoled more than 140 church volunteer work crews to come to Rockford instead of going to Appalachia, New Orleans or an Indian reservation.
The volunteers are a mixture of ages and stages of life, all with adult supervision. Most come from Protestant churches. They come to Rockford to help on nonprofit projects. RUM partners with area social service organizations to complete projects that might not otherwise get finished.
This summer, more than 130 volunteers from across the country were able to help nine families who needed repairs on their homes. The volunteers came from church groups that stayed in Rockford up to a week, and completed home repairs within the Rockford Weed and Seed Neighborhood Restoration Program. With no grant money (which initially came from the federal government), the work could not have been completed.
The volunteers also worked at local food pantries, helped with community landscaping, and did a tour of Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton. One crew is still in town, putting in a ramp so a wheelchair-bound young man can enter and exit his home in dignity. Thanks to private donors for that project!
Second Congregational and Centennial United Methodist churches open their doors (and kitchens) to host the volunteers, who this year came from the following cities: Charleston, W. Va.; Richardson, Texas; Minneapolis; Columbia, Mo.; Swartz Creek, Mich.; and Coralville, Iowa. Groups from Oshkosh and Clinton, Wis., are here now; and volunteers will soon arrive from Savage, Minn., and Union and Itasca, Ill.
“The work crews that have been here this summer have been amazing. So much hard work has been accomplished. Thank you for helping with a great summer!” says Work Camps Director Michelle Ryan.
Michelle is in contact with community organizations before the work crews arrive, and coordinates each work crew with their respective project.
“Every crew is different, along with every project,” she says. “It truly is a blessing to watch the two come together to make a difference.”
RUM is passionate about continuing its tradition in service. RUM coordinates with area organizations and/or individuals concerning Rockford’s needs. Work crews helped RUM fix up its office and the JustGoods fair trade market, which once housed a notorious liquor store, at 201 Seventh St. here in Rockford.
Volunteers painted, did light carpentry and cleaned and sorted items for the fair-trade gift shop. They also gutted and helped refurbish the “Bob Holland House” just south of City Hall, which now provides six affordable apartments. Projects such as these are ideal for work crews looking to make a significant contribution to the city. RUM’s ripple of work can be felt all around the city.
For more information, you can give Michelle a call at (815) 315-3957 or send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to all who made this summer’s work camp a great experience!
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.