The church has been hosting the project since 1999, devoting a week each summer to service-related construction in the metro area. This year, project coordinators William Newkirk and Linda Joy decided to continue last summer’s focus of constructing playgrounds for low-income daycare centers.
The Northside youth volunteers, grades six through 12, along with children from other local churches and 150 adult volunteers, were divided among 10 work sites across metro Atlanta.
“To me its so encouraging to see so many kids that are community minded and have such good attitudes and strong work ethics,” said Rand Eberhard, director of student ministries at Northside Methodist.
Although adult supervisors are stationed at each work site, the project takes pride in being primarily student-led. Each site is assigned several student leaders, known as tour guides, who help direct the younger volunteers as well as lead devotionals throughout the week.
“As a tour guide I feel a responsibility to be a good role model and to make sure that the kids are bonding and having fun,” said Sam Holmes, a 2012 tour guide and a rising senior at the Westminster Schools.
Despite the fact that the project is focused on helping others in the community, often times the students themselves benefit just as much as those they are helping. Over the course of the week, students are introduced to new friends, grow in their faith and learn the value of teamwork.
“MAP helps to remind me how easy it is to help people, which is something we don’t think about enough,” said tour guide Martha Stewart Fuqua, a rising senior at Westminster.
The work at one site in specific this year held a special meaning for the church and its congregation. Project coordinators chose to dedicate the playground built at Midtown Church at 426 Deering Road in memory of Abigail “Abby” Grace Smith. Abby, daughter of longtime Northside church members Dr. Paul and Cathy Smith, was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma brain tumor at 23 months old in March 2006. After a 5½-year battle, Abby died on Aug. 17. The family helped in the playground’s construction and was present at the dedication ceremony, held July 18.
“This playground will always be very special to our family because our church chose to recognize Abby in this way. Having the youth work on it and construct it in Abby’s memory is such a blessing,” said Cathy.
At the end of the week, it is especially memorable for the children to see the reaction of those impacted by their work, such as Pastor Todd Briggs of Midtown Church.
“The whole process is bigger than just kids building playgrounds, and it has been such a blessing to be involved,” said Briggs.