NASHVILLE, TN—Two groups of mostly teen volunteers and their sponsors arrived on the Welch College (formerly Free Will Baptist Bible College) campus Thursday, July 26 to familiarize themselves with the college and participate in a series of campus-wide work projects, according to Ernie Thompson, cleaning operations supervisor.
The seven Alabama volunteers traveled from South Highland Free Will Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals, accompanied by Associate Pastor Chris Talbot, a 2012 Welch College graduate. A group of 16 Florida middle school/high school teens and their adult sponsors made the 700-mile drive from First Free Will Baptist Church in Seffner (near Tampa), led by Youth Pastor Johnny Saunders. Both groups toured the campus Friday morning before dividing into work teams for the day.
“These were well-supervised youth,” Mr. Thompson said. “We pointed at what needed to be cleaned or moved, and they got it done. They worked outside in 90-degree heat clearing limbs and preparing flower beds. They worked in Welch Library shifting old periodicals and painting entrance ways. They removed carpet from an Administration Building office being remodeled, hauled documents for shredding from the basement level, cleaned windows, and more. I hope they return next summer.”
The South Highland volunteers were on a tight two-day turnaround and pushed hard Thursday and Friday before returning to Alabama on Saturday. Eighteen-year-old Kody (a high school senior), one of seven first-timers from his church to visit the college campus, said, “We came because our pastor has been telling us about the college. Plus, we wanted to help with work projects.”
The South Highland Church furnished a van for transportation and gas for the vehicle, but the youth were responsible for their own expenses. They hoped to see the Parthenon and spend time at a local mall in addition to doing campus work.
The Florida volunteers worked three days on campus (Friday, Monday, Tuesday) before loading for the long trek home. The group traveled to Tennessee in a bus provided by the Seffner Church; the church paid all expenses for the energetic workers. Bus driver Charlie Elliott, smiling as students removed materials from the upper floors of Welch Library for disposal, said, “These are really great kids. They work hard and they’re fun to travel with also.”
High school senior Taylor Trout said, “Some of us have been here before, but this time we came to work on campus. I want to be a pediatrician, so I may enroll here to study a year or two, and then transfer to get more medical courses.” Ninth-grader Jessica Vacarro, standing on the library stairs handing down volumes of discarded magazines, called out, “I’ll be here in four years! I want to study criminal law.” She was glad to learn that Welch College has a Pre-Law program.
Asked what they planned to do over the weekend after working all day, several teens responded: “We’re going to check out the town! This is our first time in Nashville.”
Will Beauchamp, a 1994 Welch College graduate newly-elected to the Board of Trustees, pastors First Free Will Baptist Church in Seffner. Another Welch College graduate, Shiloh Hackett (2000), pastors the South Highland congregation and also serves on the college’s Board of Trustees.