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Operation Love Your Neighbor prepares for multiple projects

By Staff | Feb 2, 2013

Volunteers will perform more than two dozen community service projects next weekend at the sixth annual Operation Love Your Neighbor event.

On Saturday, members of Cape Coral First United Methodist Church and others will visit local communities across Southwest Florida to lend a hand through a variety of activities. Volunteers are still being sought to help.

“It is our effort to help our church get out of the pews and into the streets,” the Rev. Jay Therrell, First United’s senior pastor, said. “To make a difference in Cape Coral and the surrounding communities for Jesus.”

There are 30 different team projects on the agenda this year.

“There are projects for the kids to do – there are projects for the elderly to do,” he said. “There’s something for everyone.”

For example, one team will head to the Farmer’s Market to assist with checking shoppers’ blood pressure and basic health screenings. Last year, volunteers spoke with a man contemplating suicide and changed his life.

“Not only did we help folks with their health, but we found out later we stopped a man from committing suicide,” Therrell said.

A big emphasis for this year’s event is helping families in need in the Suncoast Estates area in North Fort Myers. Six teams will set up at the North Fort Myers Academy to provide food, clothing and a warm meal.

“We’ll have a feeding ministry, a food delivery and we’re giving clothes away,” he said.

One team will deliver bed sheets and diapers to the Abuse Counseling and Treatment domestic violence shelter, while three others will assist the local Habitat for Humanity with construction and painting and at its thrift shop.

Volunteers will help Cape Coral’s Special Population program, and others will help restore Lakes Park by pulling cattails and cleaning up the shoreline.

“They (the projects) have a wide range,” Therrell said.

Saturday will kick off with a free breakfast at the church at 8 a.m.

“We try to feed everyone,” he said. “Make sure they’re all fueled up.”

Operation Love Your Neighbor has grown every year in participation and community service projects. There were initially about 15 projects.

“The first year, about 200 folks participated,” Therrell said, adding that “everyone was blown away” by the number of volunteers who showed.

The total rose to 250, then 300. Last year, about 400 took part.

A new component this year is “Each one, bring one.”

“We’re hoping folks invite their friends, family, neighbors,” he said.

“It’s a way to get them connected, not only to help people, but also to hopefully take a step in their faith journey,” Therrell said.

Over the years, some projects have become year-round ministries.

For example, one group of women now routinely clip coupons that are provided to local military families to help cut the cost of groceries.

“It helps those military families who have a decreased income because a loved one is overseas,” he said.

Another Operation Love Your Neighbor project that has evolved is quality time spent with residents at the Sterling House, an assisted living facility in the Cape. Now, church members make a few trips a month to the facility.

“That has been on ongoing ministry for the past three years,” Therrell said.

He cited sharing Jesus’ love and grace with others as the overall goal.

“This is a low-threat easy way to connect with other people and make some new relationships, while at the same time be out serving other people,” Therrell said.

For more information about volunteering or to register for a community service project, visit online at: www.capecoralfirst.org. Those interested in volunteering can also call the church at 233-4468 or stop by to register.

“If there’s a need in the community that someone’s aware of, we would love for someone to contact us,” he said of projects for next year’s event.

Cape Coral First United Methodist Church is at 4118 Coronado Parkway.