Project Reach the Beach: Rebuilding Lives in Brunswick County
Project Reach the Beach is an initiative implemented by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center in New Hanover County that brings teens together to repair homes for those in need, while growing in their Christian faith through service. More than 400 teenagers from around the nation gathered together in Brunswick County for Project Reach the Beach in June to positively impact the lives of locals in need.
The Cape Fear Volunteer Center partners with Colorado-based Group Work camps Foundation, a nonprofit organization that coordinates high-energy work camps for high school-aged youth and adult chaperones. Group Work camps gathers work opportunities in areas around the world and distributes the information to hundreds of churches of all denominations nationwide. Youth then choose from the list of offered locations, which they will visit for a week and engage in challenging home repair projects, from rebuilding unsafe wheelchair ramps to repairing sagging roofs.
Each week-long program aims to repair 70 to 85 homes in the local area, depending on the weather, skills and speed of the volunteers and the complexity of the projects. Applications for home repair are gathered by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center from social workers, Department of Social Services, local churches, Department of Aging, even hairdressers — any entity or individual that may know of someone in need.
This year’s effort in Brunswick County is the seventh Reach the Beach initiative implemented by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. It also marks the first year in the project’s history that the Center has crossed the bridge to aid its neighbors in Brunswick County.
“Where there is a need, we will go,” says Annie Anthony, director of the Cape Fear Volunteer Center.
The program runs every other year, allowing a full year in between initiatives for fund-raising.
“We have to raise $20,000 to bring the program back each time,” explains Anthony. “But, this year, given the economy, we had only raised $10,000 at the time of deadline. And so I said to God, ‘OK, if I sign the contract, I will have confidence that you will bring the other $10,000.’”
The first $10,000 was gathered from Wrightsville Beach United Methodist Church, Port City Community Church, Global River Church, Macedonia Baptist Church, and GoGas. Anthony wrote letters to countless additional churches and organizations requesting the remaining funds, and received one denial response after another.
“I just moved forward with faith that it would all work out,” says Anthony.“I am a woman of great faith. And I believe that God is never late.”
Hundreds of home applications came pouring in, while Anthony made arrangements to accommodate the incoming teen volunteers.
“I never worried about how it would happen,” recalls Anthony. “I had to just keep pressing on.”
Still lacking $10,000, Anthony pressed forward simultaneously with planning and fund-raising.
“I heard that there might be money available through nonprofit Brunswick County Housing Opportunities,” says Anthony. “So I started making phone calls, but none of them were returned.”
After an unplanned introduction to local real estate agent Bruce Brown at a networking event, the dots began to connect. Bruce introduced Annie to his wife, Marge. Anthony and Marge had lunch, where Marge learned of Anthony’s work with the center and asked how she could help. The pair discussed Annie’s difficulty in reaching the Brunswick County Housing Opportunities, an organization where Marge happened to have a contact.
“Marge’s contacts led me to Paul at Brunswick County Housing Opportunities,” explains Anthony. “At first, he was a little skeptical about teenagers being able to do this level of work. But, he had the materials and wanted to help.”
“I thought to myself, this must be the way God will provide the funds. Not in cash, but in materials,” says Anthony.
And so Reach the Beach was on.
Hundreds of teens and accompanying adults from around the nation lodged at Ashley High School in Wilmington from June 20 to 26, 2010, commuting across the bridge every day to help the elderly, low-income and disabled families in our community.
“These people got what they really needed,” says Anthony.“The volunteers did a great job. The weather was perfect. It was a bit hot, but it didn’t rain a drop. They were able to get everything done.”
The teen’s intense work provided a value of just under a half-million dollars to the Brunswick and New Hanover County areas.
“It’s a huge blessing for the community,” says Anthony. “And an amazing growth experience for the kids, from developing their faith and managing responsibilities to using skill saws.”
While not all teens are tasked with operating power tools and painting home exteriors, all duties are equally important.
“Each youth is assigned a specific role, explains Anthony. “We have all sorts of responsibilities that the teens and volunteers manage, from daily devotions, distributing paint, transporting site advisors to give advise on construction, passing out ice cream, and picking up trash, to name a few. It’s a big operation.”
A big operation that requires passion, faith, and funds. In addition to the $20,000 raised by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center to implement each program, the kids are tasked with paying project and transportation expenses as well. Costs per person can be in excess of $600, monies that are gathered through efforts like pizza sales and pie auctions, car washes and cook-offs.
“The kids continue to amaze me,” says Anthony. “In addition to the huge impact they made on the hearts and homes of hundreds of Brunswick County residents, this year the youth groups did an additional side project. They gathered canned goods and donated them to House of Mercy Ministries.”
“We continue to follow the tried and true formula that Group Workcamp uses at all of its camps,” continues Anthony, “but we will always try to make each camp better than the one before it. We savor every moment, because it is a treasure to experience.”
When asked where the 2012 Reach the Beach program will take place, Anthony responds, “There are a lot of homes that need help in Brunswick County, so there may be a future for us here. But we’re open to seeing where God wants us to move. After all, this is His project, not mine.”