Lindsey Exley, 13, of Northgate Church in Pittsburgh, leads her group in a Bible lesson during a break from a sports camp for kids in Clay County.
Kids participate in a sports camp at Clay County High School hosted by out-of-state volunteers.
Girls participate in cheerleading sessions during a sports camp at Clay County High School.
Joanne Smisko of Northgate Church in Pittsburgh (second from right) helps teach sewing to Alex Holcomb of Lizemore, right, and Holcomb's grandmother, Alice Bowe of Bickmore (far left) and Holcomb's mother, Melea Holcomb of Lizemore (second from left).
Kevin Burke, a volunteer from Kalamazoo, Mich., walks by mattresses still left to distribute after more than 40 were given away. Volunteers distributed the bedding to needy families in the area.
"Mega," a mascot for Mega Sports Camp, visits campers on Thursday.
CLAY -- The Rev. Jesse Boggs moved away from Clay County as a sixth-grader, but a piece of his heart has always been there."We grew up here back in the '60s and poverty was certainly present in that day," said Boggs, the senior pastor of Northgate Church in Pittsburgh. "I think having lived in the midst helps you better understand the need and helps you get to a place of doing something about it."Boggs, along with about 85 volunteers from eight different states, has been back in Clay County over the past week for a number of service projects. Volunteers hosted a sports camp for school children and helped make home repairs for families in the area. They also gave away mattresses to needy families and orchestrated sewing and computer classes for teenagers and adults.
"It gives us an opportunity to put feet upon our faith and to make a difference," Boggs said. "God leaves us here to make a difference and that's part of the strategy."The 85 church volunteers from outside the area partnered with other volunteers from Clay County High School for the weeklong service project.Volunteers ran clinics in basketball, baseball, cheerleading and soccer for children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. By Thursday, 120 kids had participated."We love to use sports because we think it's a great way to use their bodies to keep them active," said Caroline Glidden, a Northgate member who organized the Mega Sports camp. "They're having fun. It's also a way for us to reach them with the Gospel. We want to share Christ's love with them using the medium of sports."Out-of-town volunteers -- including Glidden and her family -- slept at Clay County High School, where the activities were being held. Glidden said she and her husband were in a room at the school with two portable cribs for her children, a 9-month-old and a 2-year-old."It's been different than at home, but it's been fun," she said.On Thursday evening the volunteers provided a free community picnic. The night included a song tribute and reflection to honor the memories of Troopers Marshall Bailey and Eric Workman. The officers, who served Clay County, were killed last August in the line of duty."Our hearts were touched and moved by the loss and certainly we as a church had prayed for the families and for the community," Boggs said.Melinda Isaacs, principal of Clay County High School, said the volunteers' work was desperately needed. Many of the high school students benefited from the home repair service projects they did, Isaacs said."There aren't a lot of opportunities in Clay County, particularly in the summer for kids to stay active and stay around each other and to have some leadership," Isaacs said. "This year in particular our summer school opportunities are smaller. So this is filling a void."Boggs moved to Elkview as a sixth-grader and he graduated from Herbert Hoover High School. He says Clay County is different from when he left it.
For instance, many of the mining jobs that were there are gone, he said."When I lived here, coal was beginning to wane," Boggs said. "But in the 50s and 60s on a Saturday if you walked downtown Clay from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the streets were crowded -- all the businesses and all the streets were full."So it's kind of sad to see that that's not where Clay is."Boggs said he hoped that the work volunteers did would help spark renewal in Clay."If we can be just a little piece of that, we certainly want to help out in whatever way we can," Boggs said.Reach Lori Kersey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1240.