Doing a church renovation project? VIM may be able to help

Pastor Roy Richardson and Barbara Burnside in the Rolling Ridge office renovated by VIM volunteers.

January 09, 2017

When you think of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (VIM) chances are you picture folks helping in areas affected by flooding or a tornado.

And they do. But these skilled and experienced volunteers also may be able to help your church with a renovation project, said Barbara Burnside, Conference Disaster ERT & Mission Coordinator.

The number of VIM volunteers in the Conference is hard to estimate, Burnside said, because they don’t all report in to her, but there are some 300 trained Early Response Team members across New England.

While Burnside said she can’t promise a team can be available for every project, she encourages churches that may need some skilled help to contact her.

That’s what Melinda Trotti did.

Trotti, who served as interim director at Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center until this month, immediately thought of VIM when the center needed some work done more quickly than the staff could accommodate.

“In every other conference I’ve been in, we’ve had amazing work done (by VIM) at the sites I was directing,” she said.

A team of four volunteers, led by Pastor Roy Richardson, recently worked on renovating an office space and a bathroom at Rolling Ridge.
Want to learn more about VIM or get help from a team?
Barbara Burnside Conference Disaster ERT & Mission Coordinator 
(978) 682-8055, ext. 135

Pastor Richardson, who serves Stafford Springs UMC in Connecticut, said he’s been doing VIM work for more than 10 years. He’s served in many places including New Orleans after Katrina and in West Springfield, MA, when tornadoes hit.

Asked why he does it, Pastor Richardson said simply: “Everybody needs help, and God says go out and do what you can do.”

VIM volunteers may learn their skills “on the job” or bring them from their profession. Some simply have a willingness to help and do tasks that augment the work of more skilled volunteers.

Gary Simmons, a member of Stafford Springs UMC, looked pretty comfortable working on the bathroom when we spoke. He’s not a professional; he worked 32 years with Xerox fixing copiers, but his father was a carpenter, and he does some woodworking part time.

This team did have a professional carpenter, Russell Fabian, who belongs to Ashland UMC in New Hampshire. His job is the finish work, he said.
For Fabian “the camaraderie” and his “love of Christ and love of working and helping people” are the reasons he’s ready to go pretty much whenever Pastor Richardson calls.

“Every mission trip is a good one because we get together,” he said.

In addition to the construction skills they bring, working with VIM volunteers can also help churches understand exactly what their proposed project will entail.

“Sometimes when a church or group requests help, they don’t have an idea of what the scope of the work is,” Burnside said. “If they come to me, I can work with them to say ‘here’s what we need to know in order to plan tools, number of volunteers, the length of project ...’”
"It’s about getting the work done for Jesus, but it’s about fellowship with each other," said Pastor Roy Richardson, looking at the half wall the team built at Rolling Ridge.
The Rolling Ridge work took three days overall. The first phase was one day, when volunteers took down bookshelves, plastered, and painted the office walls and woodwork. The second phase – which was a two-day project – included the bathroom and building a short wall to divide the office into two areas (creating a new entrance to greet visitors).

Trotti said building the relationship between Rolling Ridge and VIM was just as important as the actual building.

“I had such positive experiences with UMVIM in other parts of the country that I wanted to make that connection here during my interim so that relationship was already set up for the permanent executive director because I knew there had not been a history of that here – or not a recent history,” Trotti said.

Incoming executive director Rev. Lawrence Jay was visiting Rolling Ridge and ate lunch with the VIM volunteers. He said he sees VIM as an opportunity to engage young people.

“We live in a generation now where some of the younger people sense their spirituality is found in doing something,” he said. “In many respects, the Volunteers in Mission provide that opportunity.”

VIM volunteer Steve, who asked that his last name not be used, did something to help others join the VIM ranks. He took some of his inheritance from his mother and donated it to create scholarships for volunteers who could not otherwise afford to go on a VIM mission.

 “I wanted people to get the same spiritual uplift that I got,” Steve said.

Describing Steve’s experience on his first mission trip, Pastor Richardson said: “He walked on water he was so high on the experience.”