For those who benefit from and those who volunteer for the Thousand Ten Project, it can be a life-changing experience.
The purpose of the community service event is quite simple, said Rick Wilson of Seymour.
“To come together to help our neighbors, in a real and tangible way,” he said.
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Wilson is pastor of The Alley, a nontraditional church that ministers to the poor, the addicted and the physically and spiritually hungry.
The Alley is one of seven local churches participating in this year’s Thousand Ten Project, which will take place starting at 10 a.m. next Saturday at Shields Park.
“We’re celebrating year five of Thousand Ten, and we want to promote that,” Wilson said.
Registration begins at 10 a.m. and will be followed by the rally at 11 a.m. with live music and lunch at noon. From 1 to 3 p.m., teams of volunteers will canvass the city, knocking on doors to see if anyone needs help.
Each team will be assigned certain addresses to visit first.
“This year we’re focusing a lot of our efforts in neighborhoods around Shields Park,” Wilson said.
Although the goal is always to attract 1,000 volunteers, Wilson said last year’s event brought together about 500 people.
Each person contributes $10 and teams of 10 then go out into the community with at least $100 to help others.
“We’ll show up at their doors, knock and evaluate their need,” Wilson said.
“For some people, their electricity or water or gas is past due and has been shut off. We’ll take their bill, pay it and get it turned back on,” he said. “Or it may be someone who can’t afford their heart medicine or other prescription this month. We’ll go with them and pay for it to make sure they get the medicine they need.”
A lot of times people need groceries or shoes and clothes for their kids or gas in their car to get to work.
“We don’t rake leaves or wash windows; these aren’t projects. We are there to show them a tangible act, a particular need, and we are able to meet that need,” Wilson said. “That’s what sets this event apart from others.”
“When you try something that has never been done, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he added. “But it’s been successful so far.”
Afterward, the teams come back to the park to share stories of what took place and how they were able to carry out God’s word.
To help boost publicity and fundraising for the event, Wilson has been selling his new book called “The Alley,” which talks about the church’s mission, the Alley Street Kitchen, Feeding Kids Ministry and the Thousand Ten Project. The books are available for $10 at local businesses throughout the community and at the church on East Second Street.
“We hope to have more people than we’ve ever had show up,” he said.
The reaction from people on the receiving end of the Thousand Ten Project is one of surprise, Wilson added.
“They might be a little suspicious at first, because they’re not used to someone caring about them,” he said. “It’s a life-changing moment.”
Besides helping people in the community, Wilson said the event also is a way to teach believers that such service should be a lifestyle, not just a one-day activity.
“It’s what Jesus had in mind for how the church should function,” Wilson said.
He describes Thousand Ten as “eye-opening” for volunteers, especially for those who are participating for the first time.
“So many Christians live in an isolated world where we don’t see the hurting until you go into a home with four hungry children and see that their cabinets are empty,” Wilson said. “It’s a reality many of us have never experienced.”
Wilson said he knows Thousand Ten has made an impact, because some of the people who have been helped in the past now volunteer to help others.
“It’s a pretty incredible thing,” he added.
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What: Fifth annual Thousand Ten Project
Where: Begins and ends at Shields Park in Seymour
When: Registration starts at 10 a.m. followed by a rally at 11 a.m. and lunch at noon. Service work will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and teams will return to the park afterwards to share their stories.
Cost: Volunteers are encouraged to bring $10 to help others.
For more information: Call Rick Wilson at 812-498-9806 or visit The Thousand Ten on Facebook.