STEUBEN COUNTY, NY - Fourtee young people and six adult members of the Chatham United Methodist Church packed their vans and headed to Steuben County to participate in a home repair service project for the needy called the Risingville InterCommunity Service Effort (RISE).
RISE was founded in 1980 by the late Rev. Dale Forsman, associate pastor of the Chatham United Methodist Church, and the late Caryl Sylvester, a former parishioner. Forsman’s hope was to create a mission effort similar to the Appalachia Service Project ministry based in Kentucky, only closer to New Jersey. Steuben County became the Chatham Church's base of operations.
Parishioners said the faces of RISE volunteers have changed many times over the past 27 years, but the determination and commitment to reach out and help has only grown stronger within the Chatham congregation -- and the surrounding communities.
From a one-church ministry, RISE has grown to include 40 churches in the area. RISE volunteers have built ramps and steps, repaired roofs and built walls, painted, insulated, cemented, and glazed.
"We typically have no more than four, sometimes five, kids with two adults on each work site," said Dave Meyer, an adult leader who has been working with RISE for many years. Training classes are given in the Church parking lot off Main Street and focus on basic woodworking skills and the use of power tools, for the benefit of the teams going to Steuben County each year.
Peggy Melvin, an adult adviser and Milton Avenue School Kindergarten teacher, is with RISE for her 6th year. Said Melvin, "This is a service project in which I can use my hands and learn new skills to help others in need. I think the Chatham-area youth who go on the RISE projects really learn to appreciate what they have here at home. They come back changed in some way." Melvin's son, Brandon, joined her on many trips before graduating college and moving on to the business world.
"The biggest reason why I got involved with RISE is truly to continue the tradition within the Chatham United Methodist Church that was started back in 1980 by Dale Forsman. Many CUMC adult volunteers had been involved over the years and now it was my time to share in this great project oriented mission. My three kids, all freshman at CHS and deeply involved in the youth programs at the church, will be going on the trip this year. There are so many people in need of our assistance to get them through these most difficult economic times, and I encourage any and all people that want to get involved with RISE to 'inquire within...', " said John Palma.
The volunteers expect to come back with a few blisters, some great new stories to share, a sense of satisfaction, and a better understanding of life's highs and lows.
For more information about RISE, contact the Chatham United Methodist Church office at 973-635-7740.