By Thomas Bruch
GateHouse Media Illinois
WASHINGTON -- As rebuilt homes begin springing from the ground in Washington in the coming months, local churches are assuring that children in those homes have something, too.
Four United Methodist churches in central Illinois announced the Hope Swings in Washington mission project last week. Youth groups from Illinois, Missouri and Florida will travel to Washington over seven weeks this summer to build and distribute swing sets to families who lost their homes during the Nov. 17 tornado. More than 70 families have already requested swings sets, and the project’s goal is to build 100 swing sets total.
“It’ll give the children in the community hope that something outside of the rebuilt houses is coming for them,” said the Rev. John Hauck of Washington Evangelical United Methodist Church. “It’s a very unique project.”
The idea began with a phone call from a minister in Coral Gables, Fla., who had a student seeking a mission project destination. Interest blossomed beyond Florida to Missouri and schools in Illinois, and the churches convened to start the program.
A group of students from McKendree University in Lebanon were in Washington last week building swing sets that will be on display at each of the participating churches to promote the program.
Hauck acted as the “foreman” for the McKendree students, but he said the churches still need an experienced foreman to guide the project this summer, as about 60 students a week will be participating. Hauck said the churches also are looking for corporate and business sponsors to help fund the project.
“We’re thrilled to see all the groups that already want to come help with the rebuilding and the recovery,” Hauck said. “It will be great to see people that may not be skilled laborers help build morale and support in the community.”
Families affected by the tornado who are interested in a Hope Swings swing set can apply at www.hopeswingswashington.org.
(Reprinted with permission from the March 17 issue of the Pekin Times, www.pekintimes.com)