A demonstration of service

Contributions from the community have helped bring together a Habitat For Humanity project in SouthPark on the lawn of Sharon United Methodist Church.

Sharon United Methodist Church has been in the SouthPark community for years. And if there’s one challenge the congregation faces, it’s ministering to their surrounding retail community.

Located across the street from SouthPark Mall, the church has struggled over the years to serve its business-oriented neighbors. Where most neighborhood churches have homes and families living in walking distance from the church’s front doors, Sharon United Methodist has restaurants, banks and shopping centers. But that hasn’t stopped church members from living out their service-minded  mission.

As part of a new initiative to engage and partner with area businesses, the church is leading a Habitat For Humanity of Charlotte project right on their front lawn.

“Part of the goal for this project was that we would be a volunteer resource for our SouthPark community,” Richard Smith, director of student ministries at the church, said. Smith has taken the lead on the Habitat Project after former pastor, Lory Beth Huffman, was promoted to area district superintendent for the United Methodist Church.

Kicking off last week after months of fundraising and organization, the church, with guidance from an experienced group of church members who have worked with Habitat for years, began building the frame of a house and shed in the church’s front lawn for all of SouthPark to see. The house project will cost the community $70,000 and will benefit a Charlotte family in need. So far, with $10,000 from Sharon United Methodist, and donations of different sizes from area businesses, the community has committed a total of $52,500. But they still need $17,500 to ensure a local family gets a home before the holidays.

Doug Gillis has attended Sharon United Methodist since 1985 and has volunteered for Habitat For Humanity of Charlotte for more than 20 years. He’s the volunteer leader of the project and has a big hand in the planning and execution of workdays.

“This project certainly is a good idea,” Gillis said. “We’re wanting to do something on our front lawn and in our church to engage people in our area. Habitat itself is such a great organization, providing affordable housing for families and teaching them how to maintain their home through classes.”

So far, Gillis said the group had two workdays, with two more this weekend. They’ve assembled a utility shed and built the front portion of the habitat house, with frame and walls. Up next, the group hopes to start installing siding and insulation, and windows and doors on the house. Then the pieces will be transported to the home’s final location on Old Steele Creek Road, where construction will start Oct. 19. There, volunteers will put on the final touches, like painting, carpeting and installation of cabinets and appliances. Gillis said the project should wrap up by early December.

So far, church members have done the bulk of the work with help from students at Queen’s University.  This Thursday, a group from

Brackett Flagship Properties, located along Coltsgate Road, is volunteering for the project. Other businesses that have given to the cause, whether through monetary donations or volunteer time, are Areva, Sterling Capital Management, Wells Fargo Advisors, Carroll Financial Services, Charlotte Regional Mortgage Lenders Association, Perry’s Jewelers and Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP and Finish the Wall. Some other companies asked to remain anonymous, Smith said.

For Bill McConnell, president of Charlotte Regional Mortgage Lenders Association, he said his organization wanted to get involved with the project because of its ties to real estate. They donated $2,000 to the cause and are in the process of scheduling volunteer workdays at the site.

“We’re in the business of residential housing and so is Habitat,” McConnell said. We’ve been involved with Habitat in the past. It’s a group that we very much believe in and we like supporting them. Obviously the need for housing, especially affordable housing, is ongoing, and it’s exciting to play a role in that.”

Although taking on a Habitat For Humanity project on their own isn’t an option for the organization because of the high price tag and amount of labor needed to see the project through to the end, McConnell said he’s happy to partner with other businesses and organizations like Sharon United Methodist Church.

“It’s an expensive project to do,” McConnell said. “When we got involved, Sharon already had it figured out. All they needed (from us) was to give some money and volunteers. Having a place like Sharon to plan projects like this allows everybody to walk away and feel good about what they’ve done.”

And that’s just the mission Sharon United Methodist was going for: creating a community of servants.

“Having the project in SouthPark is generating excitement in the area,” Gillis said. “Hopefully it’s something we can continue in the future. I’m pleased with the support from area businesses and the way I look at it, this is a very good response for the first time. SouthPark businesses have enabled us to get this house.”

For more information on the project or to sign up to volunteer, visit www.habitatcharlotte.org/southpark-build.

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