Brewton-Parker Centennial Scholars help in Tennessee housing project

MOUNT VERNON -- Nine Brewton-Parker College students and two staff sponsors spent the week of May 11-16 in Smyrna, Tenn., working in the Wherry Housing Project. The students are part of the Centennial Scholars Program, which teaches servant leadership.

The Wherry housing project is what remains from the closing of an air base many years ago. It had become run-down through mismanagement and had become heavily infested with drug traffic and crime.

Nine years ago, the Smyrna Assembly of God church began going there and working with the management board to repair homes for needy families. In those nine years, the community has once again become a pleasant place to live.

Many buildings still need repair, but the residents are working with the housing management, the church, and volunteer groups like Brewton-Parker's students to continue the improvement.

While there, the students also heard from residents who had benefited from the help of other volunteer groups. The students helped in the after-school program and led an evening recreation time. The group went into Nashville on May 15 and helped serve lunch to over 200 men at the downtown rescue mission.

"Some of the things that the students saw were people of different races, religions, and colors living and working in the community together, people who have needs themselves reaching out to do what they can, and leaders giving themselves on a regular basis, not just to repair homes, but to build hope into the lives of the residents there," said Sandra Clay, director of enrollment support services at Brewton-Parker.

"One example of a changed life is Mr. Eagles, a 79-year-old man in a wheelchair. We were told that he used to be angry and abusive to anybody who came near him," Clay said. "The man we met gets out every day and rides around the project picking up trash with his extended hook and talking to all the people he meets. He keeps a book of the groups that come and he reads through it when he gets depressed, just to remember that people care."

Among others of whom Clay spoke:

-- "The Mayor" is another 79-year-old man who spends time in his yard and can often be heard singing aloud for whoever wants to listen;

-- Miss Darlene is waiting for a liver transplant, but invites groups into her home to share how blessed she is and what God has done for her.

-- Carl, a former drug addict who works for a rehab group, is in the process of getting the other half of his duplex renovated to give recovering addicts a place to go after they finish the program until they can find a job and get on their feet.

"Miracles are happening in the Wherry Housing Project in Smyrna, Tenn., and they are happening in part because of groups like these Brewton-Parker students who give some time out of their own lives to help others - and come away blessed themselves," Clay said.

Participating students were: Tabitha Barrett, Cory Brown, Kelly Hamilton, Aislyn MacLeod, Ross Lewis, Jaime Murrant, Trudie Ridley, Toya Rogers and Melody Walker. Angela Fortenberry, Brewton-Parker career counselor, and Clay were the sponsors.



Members of the Brewton-Parker College Centennial Scholars Program and sponsors who traveled to Smyrna, Tenn., to do mission work in the Wherry Housing Project from May 11-16 were: (from left) Cory Brown, Trudie Ridley, Kelly Hamilton, Toya Rogers, Melody Walker, Aislyn MacLeod, Angela Fortenberry, Jaime Murrant, Tabitha Barrett and Ross Lewis. The group is shown at Opryland Mills Mall in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Sandra Clay)

Brewton-Parker College Centennial Scholars Program students (clockwise from left) Toya Rogers, Tabitha Barrett and Cory Brown create balloon figures with a youngster in the after-school program at the Wherry Housing Project in Smyrna, Tenn., during the scholars' May 11-16 mission trip. (Photo by Sandra Clay)