By: Harold Cheatheam
In many respects, this project was different and unique for the Furniture Builders. And from a coordination standpoint, much more extensive and complicated.
The door was opened to consider such a project when Jerry Mallett, an occasional retiree builder volunteer from the Waco area, wondered how the Pregnancy Center was going to furnish the new 14.000 sq. ft. building going up on 8th Street and Waco Drive. He tried to contact the director and CEO, Deborah McGregor, several times by phone with no success. With persistence, he stopped by the CareNet office and asked to speak with Deborah. After their discussion, Deborah contacted the Furniture Builder Coordinator who at the time was at Camp Latham Springs. A meeting was arranged and Deborah saw our work and became very excited about the possibilities for building furniture and cabinets for the new pregnancy center. Numerous conditions would have to be satisfied for the project to become reality.
The first obstacle to overcome was a suitable work space. An area of at least 4,000 sq. ft. was necessary. Using the Latham Springs work space was out of the question due to use by the camp during the needed time frame. The loan of an unused building near downtown Waco was finally found. The size was satisfactory, but would require extensive electrical work including temporary lighting. The building was just three blocks from the Columbus Avenue Baptist Church’s family life center where noon meals could be served and the TBM ladies could sew. But on August 20, during a summer thunderstorm, the proposed worksite was found to have extensive roof leaks making it unsuitable as a workshop.
Scott Salmans, owner of the WRS Group, Inc. and member of the CareNet board of directors came to the rescue. He offered part of an unleased 30.000 sq. ft. area of his facility to the retiree builders for their work space and furniture/cabinet storage. The work area was well lit, air conditioned and had plenty of electrical power available. In addition, the facility break room would be available for serving of our noon meals and morning breaks. Salmans also had space where our TBM ladies could set up their sewing operation. The new location was ideal. More proof that the Lord works in mysterious ways.
We were initially to use RV space at the Extraco Center in west Waco at no cost. We would have full hook-ups for the first two weeks but then have to relocate to an area campground during the two-week Fair in early October. Then we would move back to the free Extraco RV sites but to sites with no sewers facilities. Sewer fluids would have to be pumped to portable tanks requiring frequent pumping to empty. The situation was unacceptable for the duration involved. The decision was made for CareNet to sponsor the volunteers staying at the Flatt Creek Farm RV Resort in Robinson for the project duration.
Our forty-seven daily meals and morning breaks were provided by numerous churches, individuals and businesses. Isabel King of CareNet did a great job of coordination as a wide range of Waco area churches and individuals were involved including Baptist, Catholic and Lutheran. The individuals bringing the meals or breaks were given a tour of our shop so they could see samples of the furniture and cabinets being fabricated. Included in the tour was a trip to the ladies sewing room to view their quilts and other sewing projects. Each tour individual was also given one of our memento wooden crosses with the stamped inscription on the back, “BUILT WITH LOVE, TEXAS BAPTIST MEN FURNITURE MINISTRY’, asking them to remember to keep us in their prayers.
In addition to meals and breaks, six area Baptist churches hosted the Builders for their Wednesday evening meal and services. This gave us the occasion to meet new folks and tell them about our building project and talk up Texas Baptist Men in general. The work of the Texas Baptist Men is greatly appreciated in our churches. We also used the opportunity to recruit new volunteers.
Another unique feature was the joining of the Furniture Builders and Cabinet Builders on a singular project. We were located in the same shop area, shared meals, breaks and devotion time. At times we also shared materials and tools and learned new techniques from one another. Several of the Furniture Builders also worked with the Cabinet Builders to help complete the project. Both groups also participated in setting the cabinets in mid-December as well as the Grand Opening in January.
Two local volunteers. Jerry Mallett and Tom Webster, participated with the Furniture Builders when their schedule permitted. Tom also worked with the Cabinet Builders along with volunteers Robert Grisham, Larry & Essie Light, James Ragland, Jerry Nix and Rev. Matt Canion.
The ladies sewing room was a busy place as they made many quilts and blankets and other supplies for the new CareNet facility and clients. Attendance at a Church Under the Bridge service back in the Spring stirred the hearts of our ladies toward helping the homeless. Working with the Stephenville First Baptist Church Open Door Sunday School class, they prepared 65 personal hygiene bags to give to the homeless through Mission Waco. The bags included toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, combs, hairbrushes, handi-wipes, chapstick, deodorant, Kleenex and a variety of snacks.
We gained some local publicity as the Waco Tribune heard about the local Baptist Men project and after an interview, ran a picture spread in their Living Section. Ken Camp also interviewed our group and took pictures with the intent of writing about our project in the Baptist Standard.
Overall, the project was a great success. Providing CareNet with a complete suite of quality furniture and cabinets with all volunteer labor is an undertaking of which we and they can be very proud. And the participation and united effort of the Waco community churches will benefit CareNet in ways we can only imagine. All the Builders feel very passionate about CareNet’s vision of saving lives and providing care and counseling for both men and women. In reality, we are also helping save future disciples and only God knows what plans He has for them!