The man had not been able to navigate his own house for years, dependent on a wheelchair in a house not able to support his needs. Instead of moving himself, he was forced to rely on others. But that changed when a group of volunteers with One Heart - Many Hands came in and modified his home, widening doorways and installing ramps.
One Heart - Many Hands partners with cities hosting Nazarene conferences, such as next week's 2013 General Assembly and Conventions, to provide week-long service projects that repair houses in the host cities. Founder Gary Morsch came up with the idea at the 1989 General Assembly when he saw the youth picking up trash as a half-day Work & Witness project.
“I saw that and I thought, ‘That is a great idea,’” Morsch said. “If you’re going to come all this way and have all these meetings, the least you can do is get out on the streets and kind of do something, give a gift back to the community.”
This year, One Heart - Many Hands will be celebrating its 20-year anniversary by returning to the city of Indianapolis, the location of its first project at the 1993 General Assembly. From June 16 through 21, the organization will be working with the city and 15,000 to 16,000 volunteers to repair approximately 100 owner-occupied homes. The projects will include such repairs as roofing, siding, sanitation and handicap accessibility, said President George Sisler.
“Going back to the city for us is great because we already have formed wonderful relationships with partners,” Sisler said. “Just coming back to cities where we’ve worked in the past really gives credibility to the service project. And they know that what we say we’re going to do we’re going to deliver and that the homeowners will be served in a very good way.”
One Heart - Many Hands believes that when many gather, they can do great things. Along with General Assembly, they have also set up work projects for the Nazarene Youth Conference and the quadrennial missions conference run by the Nazarene Church. Rather than just helping the city by supporting the local economy, convention members can give back by helping repair houses for the elderly, disabled, low-income and single parent homes, said Sisler. On staff volunteers Ron and Chris Fox, who have been working with One Heart - Many Hands since 2004, agree.
“The blessing of giving back just changes your life because what you receive from giving back or giving to is something that you can’t fathom until you’re a part of it, and it’s different every single time,” Chris Fox said. “…when you give your time, give pieces of your life, your testimonies or your stories, it just changes your whole heart.”
With its beginning as a grassroots organization, One Heart - Many Hands does not require its host cities to fund the projects. The organization also encourages involvement beyond members of the Nazarene Church. In the past, everyone from the mayor of the city to the people living at a homeless shelter down the street have volunteered.
“The gospel’s about putting your love into action,” Morsch said. “That’s what One Heart - Many Hands is about. Even the name ‘one heart.’ We share a common calling or mission - to serve God, to serve our fellow man. But it’s many, many hands. Everyone can do their part.”
In addition to their work in Indianapolis, One Heart - Many Hands is planning an international project that will be unveiled on June 16, Sisler said.