SENECA—What started as an idea about how to clean up the community turned into an amazing morning of outreach.
Ann Hope United Methodist Church serves the Utica Village. This community is what locals call “the mill hill.” Since the time of the mill’s closing, the community has had its share of trials. There is heavy poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, and the list goes on.
However, there is something else in this mill hill—God’s love. The hand of God continues to work in this community. Ann Hope UMC has been a place of hope and help for the needy.
Nelson Vassey, other members of Ann Hope UMC, and people who grew up in Utica during its prime came together and started having conversations about ways to help people in the community. One big issue in the village is trash. Though the community has a Seneca zip code, it is not in the city limits. As a result, city trash pickup is not offered, and there is not a public dumpster for the community. Many of the residents use public transportation because they do not own a vehicle. In addition, some of the residents cannot afford private trash pickup because of the hardship of just making ends meet. Residents accumulate garbage and have no means to carry it to the landfill.
Vassey and the rest of the group decided to try a community cleanup project. Vassey reached out to Paul Cain, councilman for Utica area. Cain was excited about the idea and offered help to make this vision become a reality.
Ann Hope UMC spearheaded a campaign to have a community cleanup June 9. Volunteers would carry off household garbage of the people in the village at no charge. Also, crews would pick up trash along the streets of the village. The church utilized its Wednesday night community-feeding program to get the word out to the community. Cain and Vassey were able to reach out to the Keep Oconee Beautiful Association and Oconee Solid Waste, who supplied gloves, vests, bags, grabbers and dumpsters.
At 8 a.m. June 9, more than 36 volunteers from Ann Hope UMC, residents and former residents showed up to work with eight trucks and trailers. The Oconee County Sheriff’s Department also had deputies patrolling the streets to make sure road crews were safe from traffic. After three and a half hours of labor, crews collected 4,200 pounds of garbage from the Utica Village.
“It is humbling to see how God is moving in the community,” said Ann Hope pastor the Rev. Matt Turner. “The community of Utica is one that is need of a lot of love. This morning we showed people that there is hope, and that Jesus loves them. It is my prayer that these seeds we plant today will continue to grow and bear good fruit in the community. I am thankful to Paul Cain for all his help, and very proud of our Ann Hope members and all the people that came out today to show that they care about this village and its people.”