Brother’s Keeper helps put faith into action
RIPLEY — Brother’s Keeper started at the Parchment Valley Conference Center in the year 2000 as a service project for Jackson County, repairing homes for senior citizens, those in financial difficulty and unable to pay for repairs, the physically unable and as Parchment Valley Director of Operations the Rev. Frank Miller said, “those who just won’t ask.”
Youth groups of students in grades 7-12 from West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania yearly come to Parchment Valley for four days to clean up properties selected from applications, which are scouted before hand by construction-skilled adults. The students build wheelchair ramps, paint, clean out and repair homes.
There has been a side benefit which Jackson County Emergency Medical Services Chief of Operations Troy Bain detailed. The effects of the repaired homes on the number of emergency calls to a residence got Bain’s attention. He said the side benefit is what happens when you take a few skilled adults, some inspired teens, materials and then just get out of the way and watch what happens.
“We did a study of the residences where we get a lot of ambulance calls,” said Bain. “The study was of six months before Brother’s Keeper worked and six months after Brother’s Keeper worked at the address.
“The study shows calls were reduced by an average of 15 to those homes Brother’s Keeper worked during the following six months.,” he continued. “At an average of somewhere around $900 per ambulance call, those 15 reduced calls from Brother’s Keeper recipients saves Jackson County an average of $13,500 a year.
“That’s an average of $13,500 a year and this is the 18th year of Brother’s Keeper … well, you can see that is a substantial amount of money the county has saved by having teens with adult supervision work throughout the county for four days a year.”
Just for the record, if one were to take $13,500 per year over 18 years, that equals $243,000.
“When you look at everything which Brother’s Keeper does and what it provides for emergency services workers,” he continued, “things like cutting call volume, it cuts down on the physical and health risks workers have when they answer calls, it free us up considerably. And that $13,500 a year, that’s not counting costs of law enforcement, volunteer fire departments and other first responders.
“In Jackson County, it’s all volunteer. These people get up from dinner, drive their own vehicles, use their own fuel, give of their own time, to help people.”
“Brother’s Keeper gives back to Jackson County approximately $60,000 a year,” said Miller. “The county gets back in labor, materials, food. Everything used is bought in Jackson County.”
Miller said the Brother’s Keeper task force board meets regularly with the Jackson Community Foundation and the Community Resources Inc. Both of which, Miller said are big proponents of the program.
Miller stated “while Parchment Valley is owned by the West Virginia Baptist Convention, this is missional work camp. The name of the denomination in front of the group’s church is not important. There is usually about 170 kids who roll in here on a Sunday and Monday morning they go to work.” Miller paused and added, “and we don’t let them go out as the group they came in as. Oh no, we mix them up so they get to know others from different locations, different denominations, no one goes home the same person they came as.
“We come together to serve others,” he said. “We stand together to do the work for the betterment of the church. We come together as diversified believers as it says in Matthew 25:40 as it says at the bottom of my shirt.”
The verse, according to the New International Version of the Bible, says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Students generally pay $245 for the four days, more the closer to the work camp week approaches. The work camp week is June 24-29 and Miller said spots for groups are still available. The number for more information is 304-372-3675. An application for assistance can be found online at brotherskeeperwv.org
“The application is simply so we can evaluate the property,” said Miller. “We need to see the property to see if it is safe for the students and adults to be around and to see if the application is for a need or simply a want.”
Bain said he will periodically check to see if an address calls 911 frequently. “if so, then I go visit and see what is going on,” he said. “If I see a need, I drop off an application. When the properties are evaluated, I will recognize addresses as frequent 911 callers.”
“The kids are fed and housed here. They work through Thursday,” Miller said. “Thursday night, the home owners are invited to the closing evening campfire and a lot do. The people in the homes who were helped, they don’t care what denomination you are when you come to help. They just know you came to help them and they are so appreciative of that.”
The number of campers which go to a project depends on the size of the project according to Miller.
“We’re taking the church to the community instead of the community coming to the church,” he said. “It’s fun to watch them grow. By the end of the week, you see them building together. By the end of the week, they are no long groups of kids from different churches; they are one church.”
Bain added, “The service part of this camp teaches teens skills they normally wouldn’t have. They’re not staying at home and gaming, they are developing life skills and developing leadership skills which can serve them through the rest of their life. And they’re looking out for each other.”
Bain said he will take the week off, “so I am not on the county’s dime while I do this,” and will travel to each work site to look after the health of each group.
Miller said results among the workers are also worth noting.
“You know, when kids come to summer camp, you may have a couple who want to go home just because they are homesick or something. They just don’t want to be there.
“But in 18 years, we’ve never had one kid want to go home early,” he said. “They all have a sense of accomplishment and see the greater good in making the difference in people’s lives without expecting anything from them in return.
“This program gives back in so many ways,” he continued. “One of the things we’re finding, is we are developing some outstanding young leaders who can change the world for the better. This project affects those who receive but also those who are giving. It’s great to be a part of.”