Brothers’ Keeper (BK) is a service ministry established in 2000 through Parchment Valley Conference Center (PVCC).
This ministry allows youth to participate in a “mission trip” where they get to serve, learn, grow, and fellowship without having to worry about a passport.
The 2019 Brothers’ Keeper on June 23-28 will be the 19th year for the ministry. The theme for this year is “Bearers of Hope.”
Every June for one week, BK brings local youth and adult leaders from churches around the state of West Virginia and surrounding areas together to help those in Jackson County who may need assistance with small projects or home repairs.
Roughly 225 volunteers are able to complete 40-45 projects each year.
Through an application process, members of the Jackson County community are chosen based on the need or want of the project they request completed.
PVCC partners with Community Resources who sorts through all applications received.
With donations from local individuals and businesses, BK remains a free service; however, donations to assist with the cost of materials are accepted.
At the beginning of the work week, the volunteers are given four BK t-shirts with a list of sponsors on the back and a disposable camera to document their experiences. They are then divided into groups and set up with a skilled adult leader who is certified and able to lead the group in their projects whether it be repairing a roof, building steps, building a wheelchair ramp, painting, etc.
“The volunteers are some crazy people, and I mean crazy good,” director of PVCC Frank Miller said. “These folks are dedicated, energetic, and they have a heart for the Lord and a heart for missions and they bring faith to the workplace.”
Each work day begins with prayer and breakfast prepared by the kitchen staff at PVCC. Local businesses provide lunch for the teams and once the work has been completed for the day, it’s back to PVCC to unwind, have dinner, enjoy worship services, and relax for the evening.
BK focuses on safety and a trained medical staff is on hand 24-7 to care for any injuries or accidents that may occur.
Miller stated that the director of the Jackson County EMS Troy Bain, typically gives the volunteers four words of advice before they begin their day, “safety, safety, safety, and sunscreen.”
Bain has played both rolls in the BK ministry. He has been on site to assist with medical issues and he has also been a volunteer on the work crews.
“I take off from EMS to come out here during BK week,” Bain said. “To me it’s more than just a vacation. I get to share with folks in the community where I grew up and give back to the community that has supported us over the years.”
The Jackson County EMS team is out in the community on a daily basis and they are able to recognize areas of interest to the BK ministry. Bain noted that they are called to homes where a wheelchair ramp may be needed or steps are dilapidated, in those instances the EMS will offer the assistance of BK in order to address those issues.
“The neat thing it does for us as EMS, is it provides us with a safer work environment,” Bain said.
“This is one of the greatest mission camps that you will ever experience,” Miller said. “Some of the young folks we’ve had volunteer year after year after year have gone on to trade schools and are now coming back as adults because they not only want to give back, but because they learned a skill and want to show others what this ministry can do for them.”
A celebration is hosted by PVCC at the end of every camp. All volunteers, staff, and home owners who have been assisted throughout the week are invited to share in the celebration.
A meal is provided to everyone as well as a BK t-shirt. Campers and guests are encouraged to share their testimonies and experiences as well as any photos or videos they have taken during the week, while enjoying music performed by praise bands.
After BK is over, the relationships continue. Miller mentioned a group from Pennsylvania that had attended BK one year and worked on a home of a lady who had been down both physically and financially. She shared her life with the group while they worked on her home. She told them she found out she had cancer. The group had prayer with her and when BK finished up for the week they kept in contact with the lady and even hosted fundraisers in PA to help her with her medical bills. Just recently the team was notified that she was now cancer free.
“BK is more than just building a ramp,” Miller said. “It’s building relationships, and teaching kids how to give, to respect, how to love, how to be a Brothers’ Keeper.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for Brothers’ Keeper or donating to the ministry, please contact Parchment Valley at 304-372-3675.
Brothers’ Keeper applications are available at the Jackson County Public Libraries, the Department of Health & Human Resources (DHHR), and online at brotherskeeperwv.org.