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J.O.S.H.U.A. welcomes volunteers interested in 2021 program

PROGRAM PLANNING — May 1 is the deadline for low-income Jefferson County homeowners to apply for help through Urban Mission Ministries’ Journeys of Service Helping Upper Appalachia program, a longtime tradition of the mission that Terrence Rainbow explained needs volunteer groups outside the area and locally to help make that happen this summer from June through August. For information about the program and how to be a part of it, contact the mission at (740) 282-8010. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — There’s no shortage of income-eligible homeowners in Jefferson County who could use some help with getting around-the-house projects done without cost.

The challenge for Urban Mission Ministries’ J.O.S.H.U.A. program that makes that happen, though, is recruiting volunteer groups to come from outside the area or from within the local community itself to do a variety of small home improvement projects.

Terrence Rainbow heads up the program that’s an acronym for Journeys of Service Helping Upper Appalachia, a longtime tradition of the mission that assists low-income homeowners in making home repairs free of charge thanks to volunteer labor.

Last year the program basically went by the wayside, the availability of volunteer help impacted by the precautions imposed because of COVID-19.

“Because of the pandemic, the groups that had scheduled with us for 2020, they canceled,” Rainbow said in an interview earlier this week. “There was even one group that waited until two weeks before they canceled because they were really trying to come.”

One group that did still participate came from the Columbus area after a mission opportunity elsewhere fell through, according to Rainbow.

“They were more than happy and comfortable with coming and followed protocols,” he said. “They came and helped, and it was successful,” he said of the church group representatives who did four projects and were “very handy.”

The J.O.S.H.U.A. program runs from June through August, according to Rainbow, who noted the application deadline for eligible homeowners is May 1. Forms are available by calling the mission at (740) 282-8010.

Those who had applied for 2020 consideration remain in the mix for 2021 and need not reapply.

“Typically you do not have to reapply, but we don’t stop people from reapplying,” Rainbow said. “Usually if you reapply, it’s because you have different problems or additional work that needs to be done so at that point people do reapply,” he added.

The May 1 deadline will afford time to process applications and determine volunteer availability to match volunteers with homeowners and get requested projects completed, according to Rainbow.

“We don’t have a challenge with people wanting work done so much as with finding people to come from anywhere to see those projects to fruition,” he said.

Groups outside the area contact the mission because of their previous experience here or they learn about the service program during the course of researching online about mission opportunities.

“They reach out and look for mission programs, which leads them to us,” he said, noting that at this point, a group from California wants to come.

Volunteers can be groups of any making, from churches, service organizations, businesses, veterans, adults and youth in junior high and beyond — outside the area or local.

Projects done are of a general nature.

“We don’t do roofs or furnaces or electrical service,” he said. “If there’s a person in the group that comes to support us, if they have a skilled person in electricity, then yes, maybe we can do something or if there’s a skilled plumber, then yes, we can do that, but generally it is carpentry, painting, drywall, cleaning, we do a lot of cleaning for people, and we build things — maybe a ramp. We have pulled down ceilings and replaced them and redone floors,” he said.

Volunteer groups can do anywhere from two to five projects during their stay, which normally runs from Monday through Thursday, but if local volunteers prefer working two days, for instance, “any gift of time is welcomed,” Rainbow said.

Out-of-town groups typically bunk at the mission’s J.O.S.H.U.A. house on South Seventh Street in the former St. Anthony’s Convent that was donated to the mission during the late 1990s.

“We are hoping that we will see participation from the local community,” Rainbow said, explaining a pre-pandemic effort involved talking with churches and inviting their youth groups to participate. “Hopefully as we continue to encourage them to do that we will get more and more participation. We are looking for that to grow,” he said.

The program also seeks out churches to host a J.O.S.H.U.A. group, meaning they provide a breakfast on the group’s first day in the area and a meal on their last. “The churches love hosting our volunteers when they come in,” he said. Groups that want to volunteer or churches interested in hosting can contact the mission’s Tiffany Beckwith, volunteer coordinator, at (740) 282-8010.

The program was established in the summer of 1990 as a work mission program sponsored by the Urban Mission.

“It began as a dream of several concerned pastors, professors and community members who observed the deteriorating conditions of houses and property in the Steubenville area,” the mission’s website notes. “Together they established an experience for youth and adults, who would come from various parts of the country to help make a difference in the living conditions of low-income community members. What developed was the ministry of JOSHUA.

“Numerous adult and youth teams from all over the country have come to participate in JOSHUA over the years. Each team brings their own contribution of money, equipment, materials and talents to work on their assigned projects. Homes have been scraped and painted, community parks have been rejuvenated, handicap ramps have been built, and windows replaced. There has been cleanup and restoration after flooding, porches repaired, insulation and dry wall installed and many other accomplishments and projects,” according to the website.

Rainbow finds satisfaction in the program.

“There is a spirit of change, an emotional and intellectual sense of well being that happens when, for a homeowner who has issues with their home — it’s their home, they love it, but they know this ceiling is falling down, this toilet is leaking and causing damage to the ceiling in my kitchen, I can’t fix it, I need help, what do I do, I just deal with it, but if someone comes in and says, hey, I can fix that leaky toilet, fix that ceiling, their sense of well being increases,” Rainbow said.

“Seeing that is like a transformation, and people appreciate that so much. They don’t have the money or the ability, so for a stranger who comes in your home and says, don’t worry, we got this …” Rainbow gestures.

“We are looking forward to getting some work done and affecting homeowners’ lives and allowing them to enjoy the homes that they live in,” he said.

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