More than a dozen members of the Bethel Family Worship Center joined other neighbors outside a Ruskin Heights neighborhood home – trading hymnals for hammers and prayer books for paint- as part of the ‘Love They Neighbor’ initiative. Members of the congregation joined neighbors to help 39-year-old Talitha Burleson, a single mother with a terminal lung condition, make minor repairs to her home.
“As a Christ-centered local church in the Ruskin Heights area, our mission has been and is to help and support families in practical and meaningful ways,” said Clifton Holmes, one of the lead ministers at the Bethel Family Worship Center. “It is important to our congregation to help this homeowner because we would want the same help and support if we were in her situation.”
“‘Love Thy Neighbor’ is wonderful,” Burleson said. “It’s overwhelming. It’s beautiful to have somebody actually come out and help me.”
The ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ program was initiated by 5th District Councilwoman Alissia Canady, chairwoman of the city’s neighborhoods and public safety committee. The city’s Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department provides organizational assistance, but ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ is a volunteer program and not funded by the City of Kansas City.
“The ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ effort can only continue if and when other congregations and neighborhood groups come forward and express interest in volunteering,” said Shawn Kirkwood, diversion coordinator for the city’s neighborhoods and housing services department. Kirkwood helps property owners with code violations and acts as a liaison between the owners and housing court. “‘Love Thy Neighbor’ volunteers make minor repairs and do yard work at homes owned by senior citizens and persons with disabilities who have received citations for code violations, but are physically or financially unable to do the work.”
Kirkwood said the city has identified several other owner/occupied homes that could be part of the ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ campaign- if other churches and community groups want to participate.