STEUBENVILLE - John Graebing was busy Tuesday trimming high grass along the Rotary Park chain link fence.
His father, John Graebing Sr., perched in the driver's seat of a new riding mower, was cutting wide swaths of grass surrounding a basketball court, shelter area and playground in the park.
Nearby stood the Rev. John Westling of the First Baptist Church on Plum Avenue watching the volunteers from his congregation maintain the park grounds as well as the church lawn.
PARK ADOPTED — The First Baptist Church of Steubenville has adopted Rotary Park and will maintain the grass and facility this summer. Standing in front of the playground area were, from left, Ben Wade, the Rev. John Westling and John Graebing Jr. Westling said the church will host a community cookout Sunday afternoon at the park. -- Dave Gossett
"We were talking one day at the church and saw a group of kids playing in the park. We saw a need to help maintain the park area, so I contacted City Manager Cathy Davison and our church adopted and agreed to maintain the park," explained Westling.
Davison called the adoption, "a true blessing for our community."
"This is a great partnership and collaboration. The First Baptist Church is giving back to the community and keeping a beautiful park clean and neat for the residents and children of Pleasant Heights," Davison said.
"We are also planning on putting a new roof on the shelter and painting the picnic tables. And we are going to paint the fence. We have a lot of work to do this summer," said Westling.
"We are encouraging other churches in the city to adopt a park near them. The city is facing some tight financial times and we are happy to do our part to help the community," Westling added.
"The hilltop is in need of salvation. We want to get the kids of the neighborhood before the streets get the kids first," noted Ben Wade, a member of the church.
"God is blessing our church and we want to be a blessing to the community. We are also planning a series of summer concerts in the park. And this Sunday we will host a community cookout. We will be cooking hot dogs and hamburgers, and it is free for the community. We have a monthly free community dinner but we will hold those dinners outside during the summer months," Westling said.
"When I was asked to come and pastor at the church, the congregation had dwindled down to nine people. Now it is up to 40 members and this 107-year old congregation is growing," Westling related.
Westling said Erik Fray, director of maintenance at the church, is coordinating the park grass cutting duties.
"We went to barely paying our bills to donating $5,000 to the Hurricane Sandy charity and $5,000 to the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center. And now we have adopted this park and are trying to make a difference in the neighborhood," remarked Wade.
"I grew up in Hundred, W.Va. I am just an old farm boy and I am back cutting grass and trimming weeds. But I plan on helping out here every week this summer," laughed Wade.
"God is good. He has been good to me and this is my way of giving back," said John Graebing Jr. before he started his weed wacker and started cutting the high grass.
His next project is cutting a tree that has overgrown the fence.
"I'll bring my chain saw next time and take care of the tree and get this area cleaned up," he promised.