“Our motto is: ‘We don’t croak,’” quipped member Earle Maxwell.
The Faithful Retired Old Guys Serving, F.R.O.G.S. for short, were started about eight years ago by Mike Gardener, a retired dentist and member of Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church.
The outreach ministry began as Faithlift, a group of “weekend warriors” who set out to do odd jobs for local nonprofits such as Turn Back the Block on Saturday mornings, Gardner said.
One Saturday, a group of about 30 volunteers spent a day mowing, picking up trash, painting and freshening up the place.
But so much more needed to be done in order to bring the house up to code so that families could occupy it, and it couldn’t be done in an occasional Saturday.
“It dawned on me that the kinds of places that we worked on weren’t a weekend job,” Gardner said. “It was wonderful, but it didn’t get the job done.”
He changed the format of the group from Faithlift, which included volunteers who still worked during the week, to the F.R.O.G.S., made up entirely of volunteers with more time on their hands.
They only perform jobs for nonprofits or churches, and will do work for an individual only if it’s requested by a nonprofit or a pastor, Gardner said.
There are currently about 16 members on the e-mail roster, though a typical workday (they work Mondays and Thursdays) brings out anywhere from four to 10 volunteers.
They work on a variety of projects, including the restoration of the Heritage Academy school building on Greene Street, the renovation of houses for Turn Back the Block in Harrisburg, and a variety of jobs for Trinity on the Hill, Family Promise, New Bethlehem Community Center and the Ronald McDonald House.
Earlier this month Gardner, Maxwell, Richard Bush and Steve Williams helped Fireside Ministries director Phin Hitchcock set up a farmer’s market on Wheeler Road.
They installed a chain link fence and gate posts and put up framework for a greenhouse.
“This is our first project we’ve asked them to come (do),” Hitchcock said. “I asked them this week and here they are. They jump.”
They come from varied backgrounds, Gardner said. None of the members have a background in construction.
“I have accountants, hospital administrators, a lot of engineers. I have a guy that used to work for the state. One research chemist,” Gardner said. “None of us really have building experience.”
But most have been handy around the house and enjoyed doing handiwork.
Now they put that interest to use helping others, but they receive plenty of benefits from the work in return.
“Socially, it’s good. It’s a good bunch of guys,” Bush said.
Williams said helping others makes him feel good and keeps him physically active and in good health.
“It was the best thing ever for me,” he said. “It’s nice to be with guys who have a lot of the same interests.”