With the inaugural Love Day in the books, Claremore faith leaders gathered to debrief about the successes of the event.
Overall, the day of community service was met with rave reviews by both the volunteers and the community members on the receiving end.
City Manager Jim Thomas said the event saw some 500 volunteers, with 10 congregations represented and 50 projects on the schedule.
"When you compare what they did in Tulsa and some of the others, we by far exceeded what anyone else did. Nobody else came close to what we were able to accomplish," Thomas said.
When asked about the feedback they received, each of the pastors shared heartwarming stories of what the experience meant to them and their congregations.
"We got to work with a lady whose husband died in October and left a whole bunch of unfinished work. Just to come in an help her see that progress can be made…We prayed with her and it was wonderful. She couldn't believe it….Just knowing the community cared about her. She said she's never asked for help and doesn't know how to do that. Now she's realized people will help," he said.
Another pastor shared: "We had one project at the home of an older lady and by the time we got there she'd called her family. Everyone was there working. Between us, her family and the city—it was everyone working together. And I think that's the whole mission of Love Day. It wasn't about churches doing work. It wasn't about the city doing work. It was about everyone coming together."
Another pastor described the experience as a powerful blessing for his church. He said they'd been praying for a way to get involved in flood recovery when this opportunity came along.
"We had a team that went to a lady's yard—she had so much steel there that our guys took it and sold it and brought her back the cash. So we actually paid her to clean her yard," another pastor volunteered.
"We had people that couldn't reach the lights to change the bulbs in their homes so they've been living in the dark…because they didn't know who to ask for help."
While the group thinks the event was a hit, especially for a first run, they critically reviewed what worked and what didn’t.
In the things that worked column they cite location of the kickoff rally, organization of food for volunteers, community involvement and overall flow of the day. Things that needed more improvement included getting information to the newspaper and community sooner and some logistical things, like debris pickup and pre-printed name tags.
The group praised the diversity of the volunteers.
Local cheerleading, softball and volleyball teams were among the army of volunteers.
"The oldest was 72 and the youngest was 6 in our group. Even the 6-year old boy was having a good time working with his dad," Thomas said. "On a Saturday morning teenagers could be doing anything. But they showed up in great numbers and they worked side by side. It just lifted my spirit that day to see the diversity of the community coming out on a Saturday morning when they could have been doing other things but gave of their time and talent to help their neighbors."