Brothers’ Keeper (BK) is a service ministry established in 2000 through Parchment Valley Conference Center (PVCC).
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.
It has become known as a ministry that allows youth to participate in a “mission trip” where a passport is not required.
Through an application process, members of the Jackson County community are chosen based on the need or want of the project they request completed.
Roughly 225 volunteers are able to complete 40-45 projects each year.
“The impact that it has upon the community is a great cause for celebration,” Parchment Valley Conference Center director Frank Miller said.
Brothers’ Keeper 2020 was set to be bigger and better than ever before, especially since it was the 20-year anniversary celebration of the ministry.
With the original theme of “Change the World!” based on James 1:22, “We are doers of the world together,” Miller along with the Jackson County Ministerial Association, Jackson County Hunting Heroes, and several other local organizations, individuals, and churches were excited to focus their efforts on Jackson County veterans.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, BK20 was forced to “ramp” up their theme and create something new, something special that anyone, anywhere, could do, not just in Jackson County.
Going back to the drawing board, the BK Task Force decided to go with a theme of #BKATHome, following the biblical commandment of “Love your neighbor!” as noted in Mark 12:31.
Instead of hosting the event at PVCC, groups participated in #BKATHome by serving families in their own communities. Over 1,000 people participated in the 20-year anniversary celebration and many projects are still ongoing.
One local project recently completed in Jackson County was the installation of a wheelchair ramp at the home of veteran Burton Lyons.
Lyons, a 14 year veteran with the United States Air Force who also spent one year with the Air National Guard, had applied for BK assistance the previous two years. For the third time, he was informed that the workload already requested was all the volunteers would be able to handle. It was suggested that he continue to apply for future BK assistance.
Believing that he had once again lost out on the opportunity to have a wheelchair ramp installed at his home, Lyons decided he would continue to wait, pray, and try again next year.
Miller had discussed Lyons situation with Pastor Ford Price, of Epworth United Methodist Church in Ripley, at one of the Jackson County Ministerial Associations meetings. Price was determined to see that Lyons received a ramp as soon as possible.
Through Miller’s connections with the Jackson County Hunting Heroes and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), he received a call stating that a veteran in Columbus, Ohio, had recently passed away and his widow was looking to donate a wheelchair ramp that had been installed for her late husband. The only stipulation was that someone would need to drive to Columbus to get it and bring it back to Jackson County.
“When we got the call about the ramp I picked up the phone and called Pastor Ford and said, ‘I got your ramp,’” Miller said.
It wasn’t long after that, Lyons received the call he had been waiting for, he would no longer need to wait, his ramp was on the way.
“My heart just fell when I heard they got a ramp for me,” Lyons said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Once delivered to the church, Epworth UMC volunteers were able to assemble parts of the ramp and make arrangements to have it delivered and set up at the Lyons home.
Having served two tours of duty in Vietnam, Lyons said he has issues with his lungs and has had three heart attacks. Attempting to walk up and down the front steps of his home was becoming a very difficult task for him.
Utilizing the assistance of his wife Debora and 17-year-old son, Philip, was the only way he was able to enter and exit his residence.
With the installation of the new wheelchair ramp, Lyons said it is no longer a chore to come and go. He said he is so grateful to everyone who had a hand in making the ramp possible.
“I have my good days and my bad days,” Lyons said. “This has just changed my aspect because I can just stroll on up or stroll on down with no problem.”
Lyons jokingly said he couldn’t wait until wintertime to see how easy it would be to slide down the ramp.
“I’m sure my son will try it,” Lyons laughed. “This just means the world to me.”
With donations from local individuals and businesses, BK remains a free service; however, donations to assist with the cost of materials are accepted.
Miller said without sponsors, BK would not be possible and he is very thankful to get the support of the Jackson County community each year.
For more information on Brothers’ Keeper, please visit the BK website at brotherskeeper.wv.org or call 304-372-3675.