It all started with a roof. A roof, a loss, and a small group of kind hearts. Today, it’s an annual service project (with an annual tee shirt) that brings together people from a church, two schools, a couple of companies, and a host of other places – all with the goal of making a family’s life brighter in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Team Holland got its start in November 2012 with about 25 people led by Hank and Kara Lane. Their first project was Cindy Holland Bunn’s roof (you can read all about her story in this month’s cover article). After that incredible weekend, the group knew they wanted to do another service project and, the next summer, when they began discussing holiday plans, Cindy brought up the idea of bringing back Team Holland to help another family. The group looked around and very quickly found a family who needed a helping hand. The couple had recently adopted three children and were in the process of trying to adjust to the major change in their family. Team Holland spent a weekend refreshing the house, making minor repairs, stocking the fridge and freezer, and generally helping the family get organized and ready to take on the holidays. They also treated mom and dad to a much-needed weekend away while the work went on.
“Being on the other side of the project was incredible for me,” says Cindy. “I felt I had an opportunity to give back some of the kindness that had been showered on me the year prior. But I also realized that what Hank and others had told me is true: Working on a project like this in service to God, and to help someone in need is a powerful, amazing experience for the volunteer.”
“People truly enjoy the time together,” Hank confirms. “Some bring their teens to help because it’s a great opportunity to expose young people to serving others.”
By spring of 2014, the group was already on the lookout for their November project. It came, this time, in the form of a generous-to-others woman whose own home badly needed a complete makeover. More than 60 people arrived for the weekend to put on another roof, install flooring, repaint, and complete other repairs. They came from Legacy Christian Church, from among Kara and Cindy’s co-workers at Oak Grove, and from among Hank’s colleagues at Delta. Some of them were friends of friends of friends who seemed to appear out of thin air when they were most crucially needed. That was the year Hank knew for sure that Team Holland had a true calling.
“That third project was substantial,” he explains. “More importantly, several of the jobs required a level of skill and specific expertise that we didn’t have in our core group. But every time something like that came up, someone who’d come from outside our church’s small group happened to have the needed ability or knew someone who did – and would come on over to volunteer.”
In November 2015, the group felt called to assist Maricarmen Dobson, whose son attends Sara Harp Minter Elementary, where four of the small group members, including Cindy, now work. Maricarmen’s husband had passed away less than a year earlier, and she confided to friends that she had been unable to enter the living room where the police notified her of his death.
“When we spoke to Maricarmen about doing the project,” says Cindy, “the part that I could relate to was that she was having a hard time just being in her house because of the memories. She felt like fresh paint would be a good start, a change that would help her move forward.”
Like Cindy, however, Maricarmen was hesitant, especially when she learned that the group intended not only to paint a room, but to repaint most of the interior, refloor the living room, and tackle a handful of other small projects. Like Cindy, she was eventually convinced to do it because the volunteers would also benefit but also, in her words, “if it would make God smile.”
“It’s very hard to accept help, to allow yourself to receive from others,” Maricarmen explains. “But, when you realize you’re doing something for God, it suddenly makes so much more sense.”
A record 75 people turned out to help transform Maricarmen’s home. In addition to the other projects, they completed a very special bedroom paint job for her son, who really wanted a Georgia Bulldogs room. The centerpiece is an incredible mural painted by a local art teacher. This special, personal touch is characteristic of Team Holland’s underlying mission.
“I know we go to these families to help with painting and odd jobs,” explains Cindy, “but the bigger purpose is transforming hearts and helping people see what the hands and feet of God can do to bring light into families. Anyone can do what we do. We started out just one small group from one church. Any group can find a need in the community, and big changes come from seemingly small things. People are placed in our paths every day. When you see a need, do what you can to help. It’s that simple.”
And what about this November?
“We’re already watching out,” says Kara. “We never have to search. We just wait and pray with open hearts and open eyes. A story, a family, will come to us.”