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Hope center feature: Christian outreach project

A Future with Hope and its parent organization, the United Methodists of Greater New Jersey, work to identify and support Hope Centers: An ideal way of tackling social challenges in a sustainable, transformative way. 

Hope Centers are new, emerging, or established community partnerships between and among United Methodist congregations, non-profit organizations, area businesses, and local government agencies. These Hope Centers tackle local problems through shared resources and strategic volunteerism, all on a foundation of asset-based community development.  

Christian Outreach Project, a 501c3, is a Hope Center that has been operating in northwestern New Jersey for 40 years. According to the director, Dave Kihm, their mission is to provide free home repairs and renovations for people who do have the means or resources to complete the work themselves. High school youth and adult chaperones donate their care and skills while learning and growing in the process.  

Planning for the weeklong program, held the last week of June, begins in early September. Christian Outreach Project connects with social service agencies and churches throughout Warren, Sussex, and western Morris counties to identify potential homeowners.  

This summer, 22 houses were recommended for repairs, but only seven were able to engage with the program due to volunteer capacity, logistics, and safety issues, among other factors.  

48 participants from seven United Methodist churches (Branchville, Milton, Sparta, Morrow, New Dover, Succasunna) and two other non-Methodist churches, repaired roofs, built a deck and stairs, installed kitchen tile, repaired masonry, built a well house, fixed a porch, built a mini ramp for accessibility, painted, and completed other carpentry repairs.  

Volunteers stayed in cabins at Camp Hoover, a Girl Scout camp, and Frankford Plains UMC, Sparta UMC, Branchville UMC, Milton UMC, and Succasunna UMC generously prepared delicious homestyle meals such as barbeque chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, and macaroni and cheese each evening.  

Every year, youth volunteers share that Christian Outreach Project is an extremely rewarding experience, and this summer was no exception. Despite the long hot days, the high school youth volunteers described highlights of the week as building relationships with other volunteers and homeowners, developing real home improvement skills, and the expansion of their world through helping neighbors and engaging in new situations. 

Funding for Christian Outreach Project is raised through grants, donations, and participant fees. If you would like to donate or find out more about volunteering with the program next summer, visit christianoutreachproject.org.  

In celebration of Christian Outreach Project’s 40th year, all alumni and participants are invited to a barbeque at Sparta United Methodist Church on August 28, from 1pm-5pm. For more information and to register for the event, please go to christianoutreachproject.org. 

If your church is interested in becoming a Hope Center, or to learn about other Hope Centers in GNJ, kindly visit afuturewithhope.org.

Originally published by the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference August 1, 2022. Republished with permission by ResourceUMC.org.