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‘Operation Love Your Neighbor’ lends a helping hand

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

More than 230 members of the Cape Coral First United Methodist Church teamed up Saturday for “Operation Love Your Neighbor.” They had one simple mission – help other people.

Volunteers passed out hope bags (food and sustenance packages) to more than 30 Fort Myers families in need, washed more than 60 cars for free, conducted free building maintenance at Lifeline (a support center for teen mothers), and provided entertainment for nursing home residents.

Ron Wilson, director of worship arts for the church, said these acts of kindness will be regular, not random.

“This is our first time, but we’ve decided to make it an annual event because it’s been such a big success at our church,” Wilson said.

Senior Pastor Jay Therell agreed, and stressed the need to transform faith into good works.

“It’s been tranformational for our church. They recognized the need to get out and help,” he said.

Therell’s wife, Kendra, said the hope bags were crucial for families in need.

“It’s for families they know are down on their luck,” she said.

A struggling economy and rising unemployment have swelled the ranks of those in need of help.

“It’s sort of why we’re doing it, to show the love of Jesus,” she said.

Some people were surprised at the altruistic nature of the “Operation.”

“So many people want to give us money and they’re just blown away when we say, ‘No, we just want to bless you,'” Wilson said of car wash recipients.

Volunteers split up in to 12 teams and spread out all over Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Kendra Therell was pleased at the congregation’s response to the call to help.

“This is almost 68 percent of the worshipping congregation,” Therell said of the 237 volunteers involved in the project.

The “Operation” put Christianity’s tenet of “love thy neighbor” to work in meaningful ways, Wilson said.

“We’re out showing the love of Jesus in practical ways,” he said.