MOUNT VERNON — In her pursuit to show God’s love, Kelly McGough, a student at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, learned that a small act of kindness can go a long way.
It started with her involvement in a Mount Vernon City Parks program last summer. After getting to know the children in her group, she discovered two children were in need and she wanted to help.
Through the university she was able to receive a small grant.
“The grant had to be used to show God’s love,” said McGough.
So she decided to buy the children bathing suits to support their participation in summer activities, took them out to lunch, and bought them school supplies for the fall. But the true gift was getting to know the family — the grandparents, the mother, and the three children — and as she spent more time with them, the relationship developed into a family bond.
“I’ve just fallen in love with this family. The kids are like my little brother and sister,” she said.
“I got a chance to know the mother better, and found out she needed help and she was living with her parents,” said McGough. “The mother was going to school to get be an STNA and asked if I would help her find a way to finish her classes.”
To help raise money, McGough placed plastic donation bottles around campus.
“I also sent an e-mail out to people and said, if they wanted to help, then they could,” she said. “The e-mail was forwarded to the president of [Students in Free Enterprise Club] and she asked how the family’s living conditions were because they were looking for a family to help.”
SIFE, a student business organization at MVNU, was project searching for a local family to help. Since last year, the group has done its own version of Extreme Home Makeover, helping local families renovate and upgrade their homes.
McGough is amazed at how the project has grown.
“I never thought it would lead to this,” she said.
With the help of SIFE and student volunteers, by Christmas of 2009, McGough raised $1,500 to helping the family obtain furniture and other household furnishings. The university donated bunkbeds for the children and a desk.
“We came in the fall [of last year] one weekend to help them clean their house up, and help them winterproof the home by putting plastic over the windows to keep the house warmer,” said McGough. “We were also able to get new beds for the grandparents and the mother, and we got them dressers.”
On April 24 and April 25, MVNU students, SIFE and faculty members, and a few contractors will be renovating the house, including flooring, dry wall, roofing, siding and replacing cabinets.
The SIFE group also helped the family create a budget, and connected the family with local Interchurch Social Services.
“We were also able from our funds in the SIFE organization to give her a very small loan, so that the mother could take her test and become a certified STNA,” said Megan Barker, MVNU student and SIFE project manager. “For us, this has been a really good experience.”
Not only have SIFE members been able to help a family in need, but they’ve also put their knowledge to practice by working with local businesses and nonprofit organizations as well as budgeting, fundraising, and working with low-income families.
Although the project will tackle several areas of upgrade, Barker said the major concern is making the home a more secure place to live. The team is therefore focusing on the roof and replacing the windows.
“We know in two days we won’t be able to get it all done,” said McGough. “One of our big concerns is there is not a lot of room in the house, and so we want to make sure that the living conditions are safe and livable.”
Over 100 volunteers have signed up to participate, but there is still a need for contractors and experienced professionals to help lead the reconstruction. Businesses and churches have donated to the cause. Comfort Inn will house the family for four days while the volunteers work on the home; Green Valley Storage will hold the family’s belongings during the renovation; Art Schaad from Hope Now is helping with the furniture; Southside Diner, Mr. Pizza and Friendly’s provided gift certificates for the family’s meals; and the Gospel Supply Shop has also made donations.
For McGough, the experience has been rewarding, and she has learned a valuable lesson.
“It’s not about me, it’s all about helping people,” she said. “And this is what [the university] is all about, we want people to know that there are college students that care for other people and do want to help but we need to find ways in our community to do that, and this project is just one way we can help.”