GREEN  It has become a summer tradition for Green senior volleyball player Paige Rossiter and members of her Greensburg United Methodist Church youth group.

Together, they fill church vans and make the long drive south to Tennessee, where they take part in a program called Mountain T.O.P., with the letters representing Tennessee Outreach Program.

There, they spend five days fanning out into the community, doing projects around the homes of people in need.

"We went to Grundy County, which is about 45 minutes away from Nashville," Rossiter said. "My mom and my best friend went with me and we all went out in little groups and were sent out into the county to do minor repairs and projects for people."

The group numbered about 30, with adult leaders from the church in charge of the trip. Other churches were also part of the effort and together, they spent the week living in cabins of about eight people per, with boys cabins on one side of the camp and girls on the other.

Every day, the GUMC groups were sent out to a different location and there, they were tasked with not only doing the home projects for those they served, but also taking time to get to know the families they were helping.

"We had a rule, we had to meet four needs - emotional, physical, spiritual and mental," Rossiter said. "Instead of going to build a porch and leaving, we would talk to the family and get to know them. We also had a day break during the day where we’d have a prayer and we’d invite them to come sit down and pray with us."

Rossiter’s group, among other things, built a porch for a family in need. She and her best friend, fellow Green senior Nadia Gray, got to do hands-on working helping several families. One, a couple named Mary Beth and Al, were happy to have their help because Al suffers from a medical condition that makes it hard for him to get around. By talking to the couple, Rossiter and her group learned about the different hardships they had gone through.

It was the fifth straight year making the trip for Rossiter, and since she will soon be graduating and heading off to life after high school, chances to be with her youth group are even more valuable.

Other groups built sheds or did home repairs and when the groups came back to camp, they had free time before dinner at a mess hall and evening worship time together with the other involved churches. That part of the day was one that stood out for Rossiter.

"Just being back at camp with my church and a bunch of other churches and being in that community and environment and being able to get away for a week, it was really nice," she said.

With her mother, Andrea, also on the trip, Rossiter had plenty of connections to home while she was away and even though the camp setup meant having to get up and go outside to reach the restroom, minor inconveniences such as that were an afterthought in a week that brought plenty of fun, memories and chances to have a positive impact on people who, just a week earlier, she and her friends had never met.

When it was over, the group boarded their 12-person vans and headed home, feeling like they’d made the latest edition of a summer tradition a successful one.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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