STORIES from C.O.O.L. Day 2018 - Cuyahoga Falls, OH

C.O.O.L. Day Snapshots:

 

Dianne (Volunteer)

As we walked past 53 Monroe Ave., I spotted a familiar face with a huge smile. Dianne. Dianne was a homeowner who was served during C.O.O.L. Day 2017. We’d spoken with her, interviewed her, and shared her story with others. She’d faced repeated hardships and had just had one of the hardest years of her life when we met her in 2017, and she was so grateful for the encouragement and the reminder of the Father’s love that C.O.O.L. gave her.

Dianne was excited to ask us if we remembered her and wanted to tell us how she was able to join the volunteers on C.O.O.L. Day 2018. In early 2018, Dianne’s entire family received an email from her niece, inviting them to join her in a service project she’d heard about at her church. When she realized that she was being given an opportunity to serve with the same group who had served her just a year earlier, Dianne quickly signed up to volunteer. She practically vibrated with enthusiasm as she told us how excited she was to be helping out, paying forward the blessing she’d received.

Jill (Resident)

Jill is a single mom, and we learned that one of her children has serious health issues. She moved to the neighborhood because it was one of the few houses available to rent in the area, and she ruefully described her house as the “ugliest on the block.” She’d worked hard to make some changes to the house, and had managed to do several projects on the interior of the home, but as she examined all of the exterior work needing done, she felt overwhelmed and defeated. It was too much to do alone.

As Jill tells it, God used C.O.O.L. to answer her prayer for her house before she even thought to pray it. She’s certain that she would’ve eventually brought her concerns and desires for her house to the Lord in prayer, but before she did, C.O.O.L. volunteers came to her door, offering to do all of the projects—and more—that had seemed too large and overwhelming for her to accomplish on her own.

At the end of the day, Jill was overwhelmed again, but this time, by the goodness of God. She was amazed, near speechless, at the amount of work that was accomplished at her little house, and so excited that she could be proud of the new look of her home in her neighborhood.

The (Little) Crew at 154 Monroe Ave.

Walking past 154 Monroe Ave. instantly made me smile. Of course the work being done was impressive, and the volunteers' efforts were a beautiful illustration of God’s love in action, but to be honest, it was the kids who brought the huge smile to my face.

They were there amongst their parents and fellow church members, doing their important work. When we asked them about their efforts, they informed us that they were mining for silver and digging for dinosaur bones. One little one told us that they were working to clean the bricks taken from the home’s dilapidated brick porch that the team was working to rebuild. The children were getting down in the dirt with the rest of the crew, and having a blast helping in their own playful ways.

When we took a step back from the kids to talk to an adult on the site, she smiled and looked at the kids as she told us her favorite part of the day was watching the crew—adults and children of all ages—work hard together and collaborate to accomplish the tasks set before them.

The Volunteers at 148 Monroe Ave. (Community Vineyard Church)

By the time we got a chance to speak to the volunteers at 148 Monroe Ave., they were nearly done with their project and finishing their day. They told us that the enormity of all they’d seen and all that God had done left them speechless, and that witnessing the teamwork, camaraderie, and love between the various participating churches had been a highlight of their long day. They were exhausted, one volunteer told us, but they were glad to have worked as hard as they could and at the end of the day, they’d “left it all on the field.”

Gina (Resident)

When Gina first heard that the C.O.O.L. Day Project was coming to her neighborhood, she was skeptical. As many homeowners do, she assumed there had to be a catch. Gina started to look into C.O.O.L., checking them out online. And she mentioned C.O.O.L. to a friend, who just so happened to have been served by a former C.O.O.L. Day Project in Massillon several years ago. When her friend assured her that it wasn’t too good to be true and that she and her neighbors had been genuinely helped by the Project, Gina and her husband agreed to participate in C.O.O.L. Day 2018.

As Gina told me her story, I couldn’t help but marvel at the great Storyteller and his ability to tie threads together over years to weave His story. How marvelous that C.O.O.L. has been able to serve in multiple communities over the years! And how wonderful that God used one former resident to encourage another present resident to allow C.O.O.L. volunteers to help! Isn’t it just like the kingdom of God to spread through both those serving and those being served? And isn’t it just like our King to weave stories together to grow His kingdom?

Rick (Resident)

When we first approached 54 Monroe Ave., we couldn’t find the homeowner. Turns out he was lying in the dirt next to another volunteer, attempting to place the large bolts needed to support his deck when we first walked up. And when we finally got a chance to talk to Rick, we realized that this made perfect sense. Rick was pleased with the work being done at this house—super grateful for all that he’d been given, and impressed with the hard work of the crew at his home—but Rick was, by his own admission, finding it a bit difficult to be on the receiving end of such generosity. You see, Rick preferred to be the one helping others out, and he didn’t quite know how to articulate how this role reversal made him feel. But he did tell us that he was thankful, that he felt so blessed, and that he would love to help out as a volunteer in the future.

Talking with Rick reminded me of one of the most beautiful truths of the Gospel which is so beautifully displayed on C.O.O.L. Day:

There’s something that happens to a heart when it’s offered a free gift. For a moment, there might be a hesitation, a difficulty in accepting kindness with no strings attached. But if you can just accept it, once you’ve experienced it—the free gift of true grace—you just can’t help but want to give it away.

Pat (Resident)

One of my favorite moments of the day had nothing to do with paint or mulch or gravel, but with the relationship that was blooming between Pat and the volunteers at her home. Pat was friendly but a bit reserved when we (the C.O.O.L. Day Journalists) first talked to her. But her dynamic with the volunteers at her home was entirely different. She bantered with the men replacing her porch light and laughed with several of the ladies who were working near us, and her affection for them was palpable.

As we walked away, one of the ladies volunteering at the house whispered to us that they were going to surprise Pat with a birthday cake later in the day. She was so excited that she and the other volunteers could celebrate with her, because Pat had recently suffered the loss of the son who’d lived with her, and the rest of her family lived out of town. It was beautiful to see this group of volunteers demonstrating God’s love for Pat—not just by helping out with a few material needs for her home, but also by addressing Pat’s loneliness and her need for people to simply love and celebrate her.

Volunteers at 119 Pierce Ave. (Grace Summit Community Church)

One of my favorite things to do on C.O.O.L. Day is talk to new volunteers who are witnessing God’s work through C.O.O.L. Day for the very first time. This year, the crew at 119 Pierce Ave., volunteers from Grace Summit Community Church, was one of these groups of new volunteers. I was able to ask them how they saw God’s hand at work in the process.

Their response was immediate, and they told me their story with both joy and amazement on their faces. They explained to me that they had assembled their crew of volunteers long before they knew what house they would be assigned, and that they just so happened to have several skilled workers on their team, specifically a painter and a mason. Later, when they met with the homeowner to determine what work was needed on their assigned project, they discovered that two of the bigger jobs for their day were painting and cement work. They told us that it was obvious that God had put their group together because He knew exactly what they’d be needed to do.

 

Credits:

Interviews and Journalism by:

Sarah Senften

Ivy Sterling