Doing God's work: Of One Accord's 'OGN' scheduling home repairs for the needy

Jeff Bobo • Apr 21, 2019 at 8:49 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Operation Good Neighbor program director Mickey Wilcox has 30 applications on his desk to improve the living conditions of Hawkins County’s elderly, handicapped and underprivileged.

If he gets to half of those in 2019, it will be a successful year, but already in March he’s beginning to chip away at a lengthy wish list.

For the past 30 years, the Rogersville-based Of One Accord ministry’s Operation Good Neighbor (OGN) has recruited outside mission teams and local churches to perform home improvements, ranging from simple repairs and porch ramp construction to major home renovations.

OGN is experiencing an upswing

In its heyday throughout the 2000s, OGN averaged 30 or more projects. But in the 2010s, resources and volunteers became harder to come by, and OGN was lucky to get a dozen projects completed.

But in recent years interest in contributing labor and other resources to OGN has been experiencing an upturn, and last year local churches and visiting mission teams combined to complete 17 projects.

They’re getting off to a good start in 2019 as well. In January, a group of volunteers from Crossroads Assembly of God in the Persia community pitched in to build a porch ramp for a 39-year-old man who recently became wheelchair bound due to a debilitating illness.

Wilcox told the Times News last week that Crossroads has committed to doing one more project this year.

That’s just the beginning

Surgoinsville First United Methodist Church has also committed to a major project to install new plumbing for an elderly disabled couple whose waterlines froze a few winters back, and they’ve been without indoor plumbing ever since.

A mission team from Mississippi had committed to install new flooring in the home of a wheelchair bound elderly man whose wife recently returned from a nursing home, where she was recovering from an illness.

Their living room and kitchen floors have rotted and are falling in, but sometime this summer the pair will be receiving new flooring.

“We have two houses that are going to be pretty intense,” Wilcox said. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to tackle them or not, but they need an overhaul from the bottom all the way up. The walls, the roof, the floors — everything.”

Wilcox is estimating it will cost around $100,000 for materials alone to meet this year’s demand for home improvements.

Donated labor adds another half-million dollars to the economic impact of OGN.

So far, six outside mission teams have committed to at least one OGN Hawkins County project in 2019. That’s a good start, but its a long way from meeting the demand.

Who pays the expenses?

OGN relies on local churches and mission teams to provide the labor, and the majority of costs for building materials comes from local contributions.

Wilcox has applied for $70,000 in home repair grant funds from the highly competitive Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund, but he said OGN is hoping and praying to be awarded half that much.

Oftentimes mission teams begin a project, realize the need is greater than the financial resources available, and they pass the hat to get the job done.

“We have received some grant funding from the U.S. Bank, from the (Rogersville) Walmart and Home Depot, and that will help some of these smaller projects,” Wilcox said. “We’d love to see some involvement on the funding side from some of our local businesses. It’s an investment back into our community.”

Skilled volunteers needed for labor

OGN has four mission teams from outside the region that have committed to return this year and help perform some of the building improvements.

Wilcox said at least two of those mission teams have some very highly skilled tradesmen who will be able to tackle the tougher projects. He is also hoping local volunteers can help tackle some of these projects. Anyone interested in contributing funding, materials or labor to OGN can contact Wilcox by calling (423) 523-4712 or email him at ooa.goodneighbor@gmail.com.

A record year for the ministry

OGN is just one of several Of One Accord ministry programs that provide million of dollars in goods and services to the public every year.

Although the total dollar amount of goods and services provided was slightly down from 2017, it was still more than $4 million for the third time in the history of the ministry (2014, 2017, 2018).

However, 2018 was a record year in several areas including the highest number of people served overall (117,642); Christmas for the Children recipients (1,320); Christmas/Thanksgiving food boxes (1,927 boxes for 5,816 people); and free winter coats (2,242).

Of One Accord Director Sheldon Livesay noted that the ministry’s 2018 audit indicates they’re operating on a 2.2 percent administrative rate.

“That means nearly 98 cents out of every dollar we bring in goes right into the program and into the hands of people who need it,” Livesay said. “Very few groups or organizations can say that.”

Food distribution in 2018

The emergency food pantries in Church Hill, Rogersville and Sneedville distributed 1,368,728 pounds of food, topping 1 million pounds for the ninth year in a row.

The senior meals program delivered 5,068 hot meals valued at $32,942 to homes, while the Lunchbox Summer Bus program distributed 8,545 meals valued at $42,725 to children during summer break.

Medical Mission

The Medical Mission in Church Hill served 675 patients, providing 4,148 prescriptions; 1,005 labs, X-rays or other services; and 63 eye exams and glasses.

The value of free medical services totaled $403,028.

There were also three free dental clinics in 2018 which served 311 people with services valued at $114,340.

The real success story

“In 30 years, we’ve seen more than 2,800 people come to Christ, and to me that is the bottom line of what we do,” Livesay said. “We want people to be served, we want to keep people warm and help keep their stomachs full, and we want to help make their homes a better place to live. But also, because of who we are, we want to see them in heaven with us. We don’t hard pressure anybody or anything like that, but we give them opportunities when they come see us, and a lot of the people we see are ready for that. We’re just thankful for that part for what we do also.”