“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” – Matthew 18:20

Last Saturday, beyond the piles of branches, bags of leaves and rows of broken furniture that lined the curbs on May Street in Hartford and Kimball Drive in New Britain, relationships were forming.

When Valley Community Baptist Church (Avon), a church participant in the Urban Alliance (UA) network, began planning their third Community Service Day to take place on December 1, 2012, they reached out to Urban Alliance. In the weeks that followed, Urban Alliance helped Valley connect with Youth Challenge of CT (Hartford) and Coram Deo (New Britain), also participants in the UA network, and both of which operate residential programs to help people who are facing life-controlling problems such as substance or alcohol abuse.

As snow began to fall and temperatures dropped, 65 volunteers diligently and joyfully worked on many different service projects at Youth Challenge and Coram Deo, including raking leaves, painting, assembling Christmas cards, power washing, cleaning roofs, cleaning garages and hanging ceiling tiles. Many of the projects, like the hanging of ceiling tiles, had a need for volunteers who were skilled in specific areas, and were finally able to be completed.

“Five of Youth Challenge’s properties had huge amounts of work done. It would have taken the entire fall to accomplish what was done in a day,” said Erin Fletcher, Urban Alliance’s Director of Volunteer Engagement.

Jody Davis, executive director at Coram Deo explained, “We got a lot done. A huge tree was taken down and over forty bags of leaves were raked!”

And through it all, smiles and laughter painted a picture of the relationships that were being formed. Inside one of the buildings, three groups of volunteers comprised of children and adults from both Valley and Youth Challenge got to know each other as they assembled over 2,000 Christmas cards. Outside, groups of volunteers were interwoven to accomplish projects that could not have been completed by one person. And at Coram Deo, volunteers made the saying “many hands make light work” come to life.

“Urban Alliance’s support and help was really, really crucial in making [Community Service Day] work. They were not [only] doing the work and helping with the strategic approach, but also connecting very well with the volunteers and leaders. By the time we were done, not only had the work and service gotten done, but Urban Alliance staff had helped to make the connection even more powerful,” explained Chief Kevin Searles, Town of Windsor, who both volunteered and helped coordinate the event.

“Not only [was] the service done, but everybody looked at each other and enjoyed being with each other. Every once in awhile, we looked up and said, ‘Lord, this had to have been done by you, Father. None of us could have done this ourselves or done this without you. None of us would have even been here if you hadn’t brought us here,’” he said.

The appreciation for the work completed was not easy for those involved to sum up in words. Rev. Paul Echtenkamp, executive director at Youth Challenge and Rev. Saundra Melendez, director of the Men’s Residental Center at Youth Challenge, both described the experience as “above and beyond what they expected.”

Now that the paint has dried, the bags of leaves have been collected and the list of projects has dwindled down, all of those who came together for Community Service Day can look back with a smile at all that was accomplished.

Most importantly, as described by Chief Searles, was that “[by] working together…it was a real honor to the Lord.”