Last week, the veterans of Kinard Manor got some welcome visitors to their home.
High school students from Greenwood-area churches arrived to help paint several of the rooms of the home, which provides transitional housing for veterans, as part of the Emerge program. Sponsored by Northside Baptist Church, the week-long program allows the kids to perform community service projects throughout the Carolinas.
“I’ve done this two times before,” said Matthew Eargle, a rising sophomore at Greenwood High School. “It’s been really cool meeting new people and doing work for those who served our country. We want to do the best we can for those who risked their lives for our country, while setting a Christ-like example.”
The students repainted the living room and a bedroom. They also repainted the office of Kinard Manor director John Penman. He said the project began with a phone call he received from Northside Baptist two weeks earlier offering their services to the veterans of the home, which is run by Lutheran Services Carolinas.
The students are a benefit to the community, Penman said. “It makes me grateful for the support we’re getting and that the community knows we exist.”
The Emerge program is one of the most popular youth programs in Greenwood. Open to youths ranging from sixth grade to recent high school grads, the program is based on five tenets based on the word freedom: freedom from bondage, freedom to live, freedom to love, freedom to serve, and freedom from death.
Andrew Higginbotham is a rising freshman at Emerald High School who is enjoying his first year in the program.
“This is my first time painting a house, and it’s pretty fun,” he said. “When I found out (Northside Baptist) had a camp, I thought it’d be pretty fun helping people.”
Rising Greenwood High freshman Griffin Medford is a veteran of summer camps like the Emerge program.
“I went with St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (in Greenwood) for a program that fixes homes in South Carolina. I’ve been to Oconee County to help out,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of fun doing this, and it’s great doing this for the community.”
Eargle also carries a great deal of experience in the program. To him, it is a family affair.
“My family and I have been going to Northside for six years,” he said. “My sister was in this group before me, and I followed her when I became old enough. I’ve tried to do as great a job as possible during my time here.”
Michael Findley earned his high school diploma last year. A member of Greenwood’s New Covenant Church, he is the only non-Northside Baptist member of the Emerge program. During his four years in the program, he has worked on apartment complexes and houses in Greenwood and Greenville.
“This is an honor and a privilege to serve here,” Findley said. “It’s good to talk to veterans and get their stories, get to know them, and serve my community. We do whatever we can here to help.”
Jacob Whitt has a longer day than anyone else in the program. The freshman begins his morning while most people his age are still sleeping in order to be ready for football practice as he tries to make the Emerald High football team as a tight end.
Once practice is over, he meets his fellow Emerge members to do the team’s community service project.
“I try to get to bed as soon as I can so I can get up at 6:40 in the morning for football practice, which is from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.,” Whitt said. “It’s hard, but if I can be here for 30 minutes and give back what I can, it’s worth it.”
Whitt is also a veteran of the Emerge program, and he has enjoyed the travel that has come with being in the program.
“Last year, I did Emerge, and it was a good idea to do it again,” he said. “Two years ago, we went to Charleston, and last year, we went to Asheville, N.C., to do this same kind of work.”
Whitt added his time in the program has given him and his Northside Baptist family an opportunity to help those less fortunate in the Greenwood community.
“Sometimes, we don’t really realize what we have, so you go out and do what Jesus would do,” he said. “Plus, meeting new people is great as well.”