published Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Volunteer blitzkrieg the Hope Project launches in Marion County

A fledgling philanthropic group in Marion County has targeted eight community projects for holiday season work.

Group members have the hands they need but could use more money to pay for materials, organizers say.

"We're doing about eight projects in two days," said organizer Steven Gilliam of the volunteer "blitzkrieg" coming Friday and Saturday.

The Hope Project is the brainchild of Gilliam, 23, and his friends, Dusty and Ginger Tuders, who wanted to help unify some local volunteer efforts for broader impact, according to Gilliam.

Ginger Tuders, 24, said the project was the combination of Gilliam's desire to start a philanthropic endeavor and her and husband Dusty's idea of creating a new project for the youth group at their church.

"We decided to team up and put our two ideas together to make it a community-wide thing, not just a church thing," she said.

The Hope Project group began by researching community needs to select small, specific projects for all the county's communities, according to the group's mission statement.

They used a "Hope Chest" stationed a few days at a time in communities around the county to collect applications specifically for families who need help with their homes, Gilliam said.

This month, volunteer crews will tackle some renovations at three local homes. Gilliam said the home renovations are the Hope Project's most labor-intensive and costly endeavors.

"Just to buy materials, we still need about $1,000," he said.

Organizers said they hope to hear from local business leaders before hammers start swinging on Friday.

Other projects call more for muscle.

Volunteers will dress up boys' and girls' locker rooms at the Marion County High School gym, while others will pour a concrete sidewalk at Whitwell High School and work at the Paws Of Love Dog Sanctuary in Jasper. Another group will work at the Marion County Food Bank in Sequatchie.

A larger volunteer group plans to go from room to room at a South Pittsburg retirement home to hand out roses to the women and chocolate bars to the men. Volunteers also plan to sing carols and spend the afternoon playing games with individual residents, organizers said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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