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Photo contributed by Walker County Government / Volunteers from P52 help clean up a property in Walker County.

With 52 weeks in the year, the organizers of Project 52 make sure that not a single week passes without helping someone in need.

The organization, started 10 years ago by former pastor and Covenant College professor Chris Robinson along with a board of supporters, recruits volunteers from churches and youth groups, businesses and schools, even individual families to lend a hand with projects such as clearing brush or doing yard work.

Board member Beth Dotson said Robinson started P52 to help fill in any gaps in coverage by already existing nonprofits.

"We have so many nonprofits in our region that are wonderful and address a lot of critical issues that people have, but he just felt that there were people who can't qualify for a particular program that organizations might offer and people that might have a unique set of circumstances or didn't have the financial means or physical abilities to address their situation," she said.

Most recently, P52 has been partnering with Walker County to help homeowners who may need assistance bringing their properties up to code. Code officers identify residents who could use volunteer help because of financial or physical concerns, then refer them P52.

"The really cool thing about partnering with these code officers is that we see a ministry and the government working in tandem, hand in hand with one another to support one another," she said.

On April 22, during Volunteer Appreciation Month, P52 was honored at a Walker County Commission meeting for its work in the community.

That same day, which was also Earth Day, P52 volunteers from Chattanooga Christian School helped remove around 30 tons of trash from the Rossville area, Robinson said.

"Your whole team has been phenomenal to work with and we're thankful for y'all giving back to the community," Commission Chair Shannon Whitfield said during the meeting.

According to Walker County Public Relations Director Joe Legge, since 2017, P52 has utilized over 2,000 volunteers to do work for 88 residents that is estimated to be worth more than $25,000.

As an organization, Dotson said P52 gives members an outlet to bring glory to God by helping others.

"We just really feel like when we give tangibly and when we are interacting with the property or homeowner on that kind of level, that it really does glorify God through serving and it's just an overt hands-on message that says we care about them and their needs," she said.

While the 52 correlates with 52 weeks and projects in the year, Dotson said it also points to the Bible verse Isaiah 52:7, which reads, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"

And she believes the work has a ripple effect.

"It opens volunteers' eyes to say 'Oh my gosh, I had no idea that there was this kind of need right where I live,'" said Dotson. "And often, it prompts them to — not always, but often — it prompts them to reconnect and be involved again and to go back to their neighborhoods, the communities in which they live and just be more aware of need."

Those interested in volunteering can reach Project 52 at P52.weebly.com or by calling 423-598-0915.

Contact Tierra Hayes at thayes@timesfreepress.com

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