Mission Next Door

Background

Mission Next Door is a charitable fellowship of volunteers derived primarily from six churches in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Our historical mission through the Home Repair Program is to provide Christian stewardship in the form of free home repair and maintenance for area residents who are financially or physically unable to provide some aspects of this service themselves. In 2016, we expanded our mission in the form of a complementary Neighbor Support Program which will provide information and assist needy individuals in accessing a wide variety of social service programs and cost saving opportunities within the Rockbridge area.

History

The spirit of Christian fellowship focused on helping neighbors in need that has become Mission Next Door (MND) originated in 2006. A multi-church task force returning from assisting Katrina victims in Mississippi discussed needs and opportunities for similar work in the Rockbridge area. The current Home Repair Program originated following a highly successful group effort led by the New Providence Church Mission Committee and supported by the collective efforts of members from multiple churches in our area in 2007, including many of the Katrina volunteers. The neighbor assisted in that effort was a New Providence Church member who lived under our collective noses and whose home was in serious need of repair. More than 300 volunteer hours were provided over five work days by over 85 volunteers who joined this enjoyable and constructive project. The project felt good and produced major benefits to the house, the homeowner, and the workers involved. It convinced us that we could accomplish a lot in our own neighborhoods by focusing our collective resources on problems and needs that exist among local residents who needed our help

In the 9+ years since the initial project in 2007, MND has completed 138 total projects at a cost of over $85,000. All funds except $9,000 in grant monies were raised by charitable donations and fundraisers organized to assist neighbors in need. We define a project as major service (repair or financial support for a service for a family) provided in one year. This work has been implemented by over 6,800 hours of predominantly volunteer labor. The projects have been distributed across a wide array of communities primarily in Rockbridge County and including Brownsburg (18 projects), Raphine (17) Fairfield (12) Lexington (16) , Buena Vista (32 ) , Walkers Creek (1) , Kerr's Creek (1), Glasgow (6), Natural Bridge (4) , Newport (2), Irish Creek (1), Collierstown (6), Craigsville (1), Rockbridge Baths (5), and Vesuvius (1). We have also ranged further afield to assist in Warm Springs (4) and in providing tornado relief to Glade Springs (5) in Southwest Virginia and in flood damage repair in West Virginia (3). Of the 138 projects 125 were relatively larger projects involving more than $100 in costs and/or 4 or more hours of labor. Nine projects involved financial support for other organizations pursuing similar work in their communities and totaled $3,600. In addition, we have been involved on eight occasions, not listed as projects, where our primary function was to advocate for the homeowners on financial or legal issues.

How We Are Organized and Function

We have managed this project primarily through the financial and organizational structure of the Mission Committee of New Providence Presbyterian Church, however we rely heavily on participating member churches particularly Fairfield Presbyterian and Bethesda Presbyterian churches for advice, financial support, communications, and labor support.

Project Identification and Screening

We identify families in need by several routes, including internal referral by churches, referral from the ReHabitat program of Habitat for Humanity, and through other service organizations such as RARA (Rockbridge Area Relief Association), Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services, and Hospice. In addition, word has spread from assisted families and in response to fliers that we periodically place within the community. All applicants are required to complete an application form obtainable through New Providence (348-5881). Successful applicants are requested to help work teams by providing on-site meals and drinks when appropriate and to recruit family and neighbors to assist where possible. We try to make homeowners feel they are a part of an interactive team and that our hands are reaching across, not down, to assist them.

The Labor Pool

We have recruited and maintain a pool of approximately 70 potential volunteers who are listed in an electronic mailing list. These individuals are kept apprised of both upcoming projects and progress on meeting the needs identified in periodic E -mail updates. Individuals who express an interest and potential availability for initially-described projects at the beginning of the primary work season (typically April through October) are contacted within two weeks of project startup to secure work crews appropriate to each job.

Team Structure

The organizational structure we adopted during the 2008 work year involved the identification of work teams to be led by team captain with skills appropriate to the task at hand. Within our volunteer list are three individuals who are contractors whom we have used or consulted for more complex tasks. Skilled volunteers may lead certain tasks suitable for their skill sets. We also use relatively unskilled labor, and on-site training helps these individuals both learn new skills and more effectively contribute to the job. The team captains are primarily responsible for organizing the team to address the needs of each task, assuring supply of materials appropriate to the job, and reporting expenses back to the central accounting contact at New Providence. Work teams are comprised to try to assure a good representation of individuals with adequate skill sets to address tasks of modest complexity. Whenever appropriate, individual churches or clubs (e.g., the Brownsburg Ruritan) are encouraged to take a lead role in completing a project.

Funding Operations

To date we have operated totally from monies derived from four primary sources: (1) Funds specifically allocated to missionís work by the participating churches as a part of their operating budgets; (2) individual contributions from committed supporters; (3) grant funding from the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and from the Washington and Lee University Community Grants Program; and (4) monies generated by fundraising activities organized to support missions work in our communities. Among the fundraisers have been sales of chicken dinners, silent auctions, cakewalks, a fall bazaar, a gospel sing, and an annual Alternative Christmas Program that permits individuals to give to designated financial gifts to missions in place of material gifts to others. Participating churches contribute what they can to a common pool which is accounted from New Providence, but available on a need basis across participating churches.

Interactions with Other Service Agencies in the Rockbridge area

Mission Next Door has had very close collaborative interactions with several area service groups including principally Habitat for Humanity through its ReHabitat Program, Total Action for Progress (TAP), and various human services organizations. Our assistance has included both providing volunteers and assisting in funding the materials costs.

Snapshots of Early MND Projects
Mission Next Door