Covenant College Teams with Local Non-Profit, P52
Dr. Chris Robinson, assistant professor of sociology at Covenant, is the director of Project 52 (P52), an organization which helps widows, the disabled, and those at or below the poverty line in the local community. Dr. Robinson founded this organization in 2011 when he was serving as pastor at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church. The church’s youth group went on various missions trips to places like Jamaica and Nicaragua, but Dr. Robinson found himself wondering why his church needed to go so far when plenty of missions opportunities were right outside his door. Robinson found himself yearning to be more involved in his local community, and from this desire came Project 52. The name represents the organization’s goal of completing 52 projects throughout the year—one each week. Dr. Robinson hopes this will keep missions always on the minds of volunteers, instead of viewing helping as an exotic, once-a-year extravagance.
The organization works with Walker County code officers to paint houses, clean yards, and fill dumpsters for those unable to do this type of manual labor themselves. Code tickets are fines for properties that do not meet county code. These fines range from $10-$1000, and properties can be fined daily until they meet the county’s standards. When local county code officers issue tickets to property owners, they will often contact P52, which then approaches property owners to assess the situation and offer assistance.
“Essentially, the church and the state come together to work hand-in-hand, which isn’t a very common thing to hear about,” says Dr. Robinson.
In providing equipment and manual labor to those who need it, P52 shows the generous love of Christ to residents of Walker County. Manual labor is not all this organization provides. Dr. Robinson states that P52 projects “are not just one and done—follow-ups are just as important.” Volunteers share the gospel with non-Christian property owners through conversations, follow-ups after the completion of projects, and invitations to local churches. When working on a project that serves those already in the body of Christ, P52 volunteers share in Christian fellowship with the homeowners.
For two years now, Covenant College has provided many volunteers to make some of these projects possible. On Tuesday, August 21, during the 2018 Orientation Week for incoming freshmen, Covenant sent its second annual large-scale group of students to help P52. Roughly 300 students, faculty, and student leaders helped in this year’s project. In only two and a half hours, they filled 6 dumpsters on 5 different properties with a total of 17.96 tons of trash. “We tend to see service as something that has to be done perfectly,” says Kaylee Beck ’19, a student leader at one of the project sites. “Working with P52 has changed my mindset on that. God doesn’t call us to be perfect, he just calls us to show up. He can’t use us if we don’t show up. But when we do, he’ll use us, even to pick up trash. It’s simple, but it’s a way to be there and to love our neighbors.”
This year, Covenant’s O-week teams brought P52 to its 53rd project of the year. Dr. Robinson hopes the relationship between Covenant and P52 continues to grow and strengthen.