In just one Sunday morning, 225 people donated $25,000 to RIO Revolution’s Helping Hands ministry, an outreach created to provide school supplies to area students in need.
“The offering was amazing,” said Pacer Hepperly, pastor of RIO Revolution. “We announced it a week in advance and started talking about it. We didn’t expect that much, but people buy-in when they can actually see something tangible. Terry (McCoy, project director) made it easy to see the vision and when we talked about work we can do in our own backyard, people jumped on board.”
The self-defined non-traditional church currently meets in the auditorium of Heritage High School and, while they could have put the money towards funding a permanent meeting place, they decided to use it for the community.
“Instead of spending it on a building, we have folks who need it worse than we do. We’re going to start with the local area around Heritage, Porter, Walland and Townsend,” said Terry McCoy who is overseeing the project.
The idea started small when McCoy and his wife, Tracy, were talking about the specific needs people in Blount County have.
“We wondered what could we do here. We got a flyer in the mail from a church in Sevierville doing the same thing and we thought, ‘Let’s do something like this and give away tennis shoes, stuff for back to school,’” said McCoy. “I met with Pacer, who was supportive.”
“Terry had the idea, and it took off,” said Hepperly. Then they gathered a team of 12 people and McCoy defined departments and designated responsibilities to “dependable and responsible people.” Hepperly said McCoy got everything organized.
“Terry’s wife is a schoolteacher. She plays a big part in knowing different needs. We have a lot of people we can depend on,” said Hepperly.
According to McCoy, the ministry will work by utilizing guidance counselors in local schools. “We’ll get them the forms so that, at the end of the year, they can give them to those in need. At that point the family can tell us shoe size, grade, etc. so we know what supplies to buy for them. We’ll let the guidance counselor be the gatekeeper.”
One of the team members estimated 70 children at one school would benefit from the work of Helping Hands ministry and from that number they created an overall estimate. “We came up with around 500 kids, which should be close to our limit,” said McCoy. “Let’s say we give shoes to 600 kids at $30 apiece, that’s quite a bit of our budget. We’re looking for sponsorships from shoe stores.”
Toward the end of July, but in time for the new school year, they will have all the supplies bought and packaged waiting at the church for the recipients to pick them up.
Pick-up day will be a celebration as well. The leaders of Helping Hands hope any recipients without a church home will attend RIO Revolution that morning. They are expecting lots of families and have special activities planned for the children. They also anticipate it being a busy day so they are prepared with plenty of food including burgers, hotdogs and drinks.
“We want to encourage the entire church to be involved that Sunday,” said Hepperly. “We’ll have a sign-up to get everyone involved and fit into one of the categories Terry has set up. There’s been a lot of interest. Everybody plans on working that day.”
McCoy said the church has planned a trip to Haiti to work with an orphanage and to Peru to build a church but not everyone is in a position to go on a mission trip. His wife is an example. “I have two small kids so Tracy won’t be traveling to Peru. But she is here and can help someone here and experience the feeling of giving.”
“We’d like this to be annual,” said Hepperly. “We want them to have something to last for eternity. It’s more than just giving away food and things.”
For more information, call Terry McCoy at 865-681-4232. To donate to the Helping Hands fund, send donations to RIO Revolution at P.O. Box 220, Walland, TN 37886.