Lending a hand to senior members of Prestonwood Baptist Church by doing yard work and other chores has long been the heart of the church.
But now the scope of services available to widows and widowers has grown significantly, from yard work and painting to providing financial and legal guidance.
Phil Mitchell, Minister to Senior Adults, said Prestonwood launched the expanded program earlier this year. Already, some 180 church members have signed up to volunteer and are willing and ready to help with a variety of things.
Nearly 200 Prestonwood volunteers are willing and ready to help widows and widowers.
“Most people tend to think that what we do are handyman things, and that is the biggest part of the ministry,” said Senior Adult Associate Bill Matthews, who oversees the assistance programs for widows and widowers.
But the volunteers bring all sorts of career skills, including attorneys who can provide advice and guidance with wills when a spouse has passed away.
Prestonwood member Marilyn Beck said she found professional help for a recently widowed friend, and later for herself.
Her friend was referred to a certified public accountant and an attorney, both active volunteers at Prestonwood, for help with a will.
“Later, I received help from the same men I had taken my friend to see,” Marilyn said, “never dreaming that they would spend the hours of work that I couldn’t have afforded.
“I can’t begin to tell you what a blessing they’ve been to me.”
The assistance programs for widows and widowers have grown over time, but the core remains the work that deacons and Bible Fellowships have done for years on weekends.
Linda Benesch was a recent beneficiary when a group of men from the Difference Makers Bible Fellowship arrived on a cool Saturday morning to remove shrubs that had overstayed their welcome.
Linda’s husband, John, had passed away a few months before, and the yard work was too much for her to tackle alone. The Prestonwood men took on the job, just as members of other classes did across other neighborhoods.
“I’m really not exactly sure how all this happened, but someone from the church contacted me and that’s how it came together,” Linda said. “It all went smoothly. And I have two nice little replacements already planted.”
Charles Shrauner, Director of the Difference Makers class, said the men were happy to help. After the shrubs were removed, the crew cut everything to a manageable size and stacked up the wood for city trash crews.
Before they left, one man climbed up to replace a light bulb high over Linda’s patio.
“It was wonderful,” she said, “and it showed me there are people willing to help.”
These work weekends were the starting point for the Senior Adult Ministry’s new volunteer program, which matches people possessing certain skills with widows and widowers who need assistance on specific projects.
Volunteers are blessed to be a blessing to widows and widowers.
“We saw a need for it and we’re trying to launch it and increase the number of volunteers,” Bill Matthews said. “Now we just need more widows and widowers to ask for help.
“And even if people don’t need the help themselves, they probably know other widows and widowers who could use a hand,” he said.
Julie Marwitz learned about the new program almost by chance. She had called Phil to see whether he knew of an organization that visits homebound residents.
“My dad passed away in April of 2017. He was 93 and my mom is almost 97 and they were married for 70 years,” Julie said. “I was worried about her being at home, being lonely.
“Phil told me they were getting this program together for widows and widowers, and they had volunteers who would visit people, and they had people who do home repairs,” she said. “I thought, ‘My mom needs some repairs; she’s on a tight income; and there are some things she needs that I can’t do.’”
Soon, a group of Prestonwood volunteers arrived at her mother’s house, Julie said.
“There were like 18 people out here working,” she said. “They cleaned out the whole garage and reorganized it—that was huge! They put up a section of fence on the side of the house. They painted the den.
“We had a pipe that had dripped forever and they came back that night to fix it. My mom was overwhelmed. To see everyone willing to help out, that was so awesome! One of the guys had a cleaning service. He said, ‘Call me when you get done painting and we’ll take care of the carpets.’
“I said, ‘How much?’ And he said his company would take care of it.”
Prestonwood volunteers are ready to help the church’s widows and widowers. But some don’t know whom to call, and others are reluctant to ask for help.
“God is using this widows’ ministry to help those who don’t know where to turn for budgeting, income tax help, or updating a will,” Marilyn Beck said. “It’s sometimes hard to do, but all you need to do is ask, whether it’s for difficult financial or legal problems or home repairs when you’re short on funds.
“I would never have thought to ask for sprinkler repair help until I asked a friend if she knew an honest company that wouldn’t charge a tremendous amount for repairs,” she said. “She suggested I call the widows’ ministry for help, and two men volunteered to look at what I needed and they repaired it, on a hot morning!
“It was such a wonderful blessing,” Marilyn said. “I can’t thank them enough!”