Originally created 07/24/99

Love flows through River of Life volunteers



River of Life has arrived in Lincolnton, Ga., and Augusta.

About 170 young people and adult supervisors from across Georgia are finishing a three-day mission today, painting, roofing and building at about 20 sites.

Volunteers will hold a youth service at 7:30 tonight at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

The ecumenical outreach has grown from its first event in Lincolnton nine years ago to nine events across Georgia this summer.

United Methodist churches are the host congregations this year, said the Rev. Robert Beckwith, the United Methodist minister who founded the ministry. "I would love to see the day when the events are hosted by churches outside of Methodism as well."

The outreach is a way to build bridges across racial and economic lines, said the Rev. Beckwith, pastor of Lithia Springs (Ga.) United Methodist Church. He will roof a house at a River of Life event this weekend in Douglas County.

The outreach is "for the glory of the Lord," said Ron Taylor, a co-director in Lincolnton. "The kids pour labor, sweat, heart and soul into it."

It amazes him that each pays $70 to come and work and keep coming back year after year. "One young lady has done eight years in a row" but was really sad she couldn't be here this year, he said. She has entered a seminary.

Fees and donations cover meals, shelter and supplies. Most volunteers for the Lincolnton and Augusta events stayed at Camp Daniel Marshall or at a 4-H Camp off Doug Bernard Parkway.

River of Life relies on churches, government and civic groups to identify needs. There are always more requests than it can meet. This year, 13 sites in Lincolnton were chosen from 42 applications, said Mr. Taylor. "It is a tough thing to have to tell more people `no' than `yes."'

They can only pray that they are helping the right ones, he said.

All work is done on exteriors of occupant-owned homes. The ministry is not trying to improve any landlord's property, he said. "We want to help the handicapped, elderly and needy."

Ramp jobs get priority -- rarely are they turned down, said Mr. Taylor. "If a family member is in a wheelchair, that gets top consideration."

In Augusta, volunteers will alter the pitch of roof eaves, repair leaks and paint Lucretia Adams' home on Picquet Street in the Bethlehem community. She lives with grandsons Derek, 12, and Deon, 5.

Derek attended Camp Rainbow, a retreat for children with cancer, this week, but he will have an opportunity to meet some of the volunteers before they wind up their efforts today. "He was doing pretty good so that he could go" to Rainbow, said his grandmother.

Virginia Norton covers religion for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.