Helping right on target

A Jackson County outreach program got more personal this year thanks to several changes and the efforts of those involved.

Now in its seventh year, the Thousand-Ten Project was started in 2011 by Rick Wilson, who has since retired as head pastor of The Alley in Seymour.

The program began with the simple plan to gather 1,000 people, each donating $10, so they could help out in the community in many ways.

This year the program was led by Stevie Lockman, new head pastor at The Alley.

“We’re trying to get people from every church to gather and unify to meet the needs of the people they might even live next to in Jackson County,” Lockman said.

This year’s outreach was devised to be a little more focused than previous years, he added.

“We started collecting names and needs, through everywhere, social media, churches, friends and the Alley Street Kitchen, and we collected around 60 names, addresses and (phone) numbers, of people who need help,” Lockman said.

In previous years, the program focused on specific neighborhoods but had no way of connecting with the people other than knocking on their doors and asking about what people needed.

“We had problems with that,” said Pastor Bill Lockman, of Seymour Christian Church. Bill and his wife, Love, have helped with the event in past years and are the parents of Pastor Stevie Lockman. “We might give out a street name to a group and they would go door to door with only one person answering any of the knocks and they wouldn’t have any needs we could help with.”

Each team this year received an envelope with a name, an address and telephone number as well as a need.

“We really want them to sit down and listen to the stories of the people they are helping,” Stevie Lockman said.

The past several years provided a number of stories for those who attended, showing ways volunteers had helped.

“We helped a woman who hadn’t had electricity for three years get a generator and hook it up to her home,” said Sara Ellis, manager of the Alley Street Kitchen.

Another couple, who have been involved in the project since its inception, Richard and Pam Winegarden, talked about an experience last year.

“We knocked on a door and asked what we could do to help,” Richard Winegarden said. “They said they couldn’t afford tires to visit family, they couldn’t afford food, and when we came in they had four or five children, some sleeping on the floor.”

The Winegardens said they spoke with Big O Tire in Seymour, and paid for tires, bought them food and two bunk beds.

“Seeing those children’s eyes light up,” Pam Winegarden said. “It was like watching a child on Christmas morning.”

The three said they feel sometimes people are embarrassed or taught they are bad people if they ask for help.

Many had stories of individuals unable to work while recovering from medical issues and costs, or working several jobs yet still missing day-to-day essentials like food for their families.

“There are a lot of good folks here, some just need a helping hand,” said Ralph Cooley, another volunteer.

“Until we got involved with this we didn’t see how much need there was in the community,” Pam Winegarden added.

And that’s what Stevie Lockman and Ellis both say is the main point of the Thousand-Ten Project — to get out and help mankind.

“Sometimes, when we’re in church, it’s easy to ignore those that don’t go to church with us, but today, the Christians are talking the talk and walking the walk,” Stevie Lockman said, adding he hoped it was a chance for those that might have had a bad experience with churches in the past to see them in a new light.

“It’s seeing hope take hold again for some of the people in this community,” Ellis said. “It’s not about separating us by denominations, it’s us uniting to make Seymour brighter and spread God’s light.”

After sitting down and talking with the families they were helping, volunteers strived to take care of the most needs they could with the money they had gathered.

Quite often, the groups would head straight to grocery stores or other local businesses to get the things the families needed to help improve their lives.

Any bigger needs beyond what the ten-person teams could provide were brought to the gathering of teams afterwards at Shields Park in Seymour to see if other groups or organizations could help.

“I want to encourage you all to keep these names and addresses to keep them in your minds and hearts and maybe check back up on them,” Stevie Lockman said to those who showed up to help.

“We’re not a big city, there aren’t daily news reports or articles about homeless or those that go hungry in small towns, they’re the silent needy,” Pam Winegarden said. “You never know how hard it is until you see some of the things others endure and listen to them talk about it.”