Serving During an Alternative Spring Break Work Retreat

Your group has offered themselves to serve. What follows will give you an idea of what you can expect from a Work Retreat with Good Works.


We have four goals that we are seeking to accomplish in your group and through the presence of your group with us:

#4 – Accomplishing necessary tasks for GW and the community; allowing the task to be a catalyst for transforming relationships.
#3 – Nurture the community of your group by living and working together.
#2 – Allow service to become a normal expression of who you are.
#1 – Learn from One Another. It is our hope that you will take something with you from Good Works back to your own community. You will leave behind the work you do, but we also expect we will learn from you those things that we need to learn about in this work entrusted to us.

While you are coming to serve with us and help with some very real needs that we have, completing a project is not our primary goal for you. Instead of coming into this Work Retreat experience with a mind to accomplish something, come into it with an openness to learn through and from people in this community. This will have a far more lasting impact on you personally.

Your group will be working alongside our staff or interns in some capacity. They have several objectives in their leadership role with your group.

  1. To facilitate the formation of relationships. Much has been said about this already, but we recognize that there are some people in your group that will be uncomfortable meeting the people we are serving. The staff or intern will seek to help you to get over this hurdle. In most cases they have met the person with whom you are spending time. In some cases the interns are struggling with this themselves. But they have intentionally placed themselves into this uncomfortable role in order to grow in this area of their lives.
  2. Give oversight at the home of the person you are serving. The staff or interns will provide general supervision of what is happening when you are serving a widow or a disabled person. They may also supervise the specific project on which you are working. They are being trained in the types of things that should and should not happen when we are serving someone at their home on their property. Please respect their leadership. (While it is not our preference, from time to time we must leave a group at someone’s home without any staff or intern. Most often this happens because we do not have enough people to supervise the number of people in your group. Usually we will make a decision about this before you come and let you know that this will happen on a certain project.)
  3. Assist you with any needs you might have in the process of doing the project. We want to make sure that you have the materials and tools needed to accomplish the project. The staff or interns are responsible to make sure this happens. Our goal is to be ready before your group is ready to go. However, inevitably we get onto a project and encounter something we did not expect and must get the needed items.
  4. Minimize the possibility that someone will get hurt. Safety is a major concern for our staff and interns. They have been trained to identify unsafe situations and interrupt any behavior that might result in someone getting hurt. You will be asked to read “Safety Review Sheets” for the specific equipment you are going to operate. It is not our desire to insult or offend anyone in your group, but to make sure that no one gets hurt.
  5. To facilitate mentoring opportunities. We want to see the skilled members of your group teach the less skilled. This can be frustrating for some people, especially those who are focused on finishing the task.
  6. To not allow horseplay to get out of hand. While we want your group to have a good time, we will not allow a situation where someone could get hurt, equipment will get damaged or resources wasted. We do not consider it appropriate to have a paint fight, splattering paint on people or on property. It is a waste of resources, especially to someone with limited income. Please help us monitor these kinds of things.

Our staff or interns are not seeking to exhaust your group. There are times when the work will be hard, but we are not taskmasters. We will leave to your discretion the decisions of which people should or should not be working and how much they should be working. We will simply seek to have your group members join us in the task at hand. We will leave the prompting to work to the leadership in the group. Some members will need to be told to take it easy because they are working too hard for the heat of the day or may hurt someone as they are working. You will see others who are resting and you know that is a good thing for them. You may determine that others in the group may not be working in a way that will accomplish your goals and you will have to direct them in the task at hand. Others may be goofing off or horsing around or not handling the equipment properly and will need a rebuke from you. Each person is different. We want to work alongside you in the development of your group. You have our permission to speak with us about any task that you feel is inappropriate for your group.

In the course of a year Good Works has about 1,000 volunteers serving with us. Every one of these volunteers makes a difference in the life of our community in some way. It is very likely that while you are here as a volunteer, you will be serving with one or more of these other volunteers connected to Good Works. This is not an accident. When possible, we very much like to see our volunteers serve together and discover each other. What follows is a brief description of some of these volunteers.

Interns – You will be serving with individuals who have made a long-term commitment to us. They are seeking a growing, educational experience in this ministry. In some cases they may be in supervisory roles. They are providing leadership during a project for your group. They are the connecting point between your group and Good Works. You will most likely have some contact with people in the following internships:

  • Appalachian Immersion
  • Summer Internship
  • Week of Service

Other Groups – Occasionally we will have two groups serving together on the same day. It may be that the first group that signed up was a small group and we felt another small group would work well with them. This could be an Ohio University group that is seeking to volunteer in the community. Depending on the make-up of these two groups, we may mix your group with another or keep you separate. It is unlikely that we will have two ASB groups with us. But it may be possible that another Work Retreat would be present that we feel would enhance the experience of your ASB group.

Good Works Volunteers – These individuals often volunteer with us once a month. They not only want to make a contribution through a regular commitment, but they also want to connect to a community.

Transformation Station Volunteers – This volunteer opportunity gives people the chance to get a resource they need while also helping someone else. After completing their volunteer time, they are eligible to receive donated vehicles, appliances, furniture, bicycles and food. This gives you the opportunity to not only help our friends struggling with poverty, but to also serve with them! Some of these individuals have been assigned community service from the courts.

While the projects are an essential help to Good Works and to our community, we do not feel they are an end in themselves. Rather, each is a catalyst to something greater—the formation of relationships and the growth of your community. Your acts of service together becomes a catalyst not just for individual growth but also for community growth.

All that being said, we want to do all our work with excellence. It is not helpful to anyone to do our work poorly for the sake of forming good relationships. What we are saying is that the quality of the task and the quality of the relationship must be kept in balance.

Types of Projects
There are about as many types of projects as there are groups, but we can give you an idea of the type of work you might be doing from the accomplishments of past groups. Some groups have installed hearths and built storage sheds. Others have done specific construction, electrical and plumbing work in our facilities. Mechanics have worked on our vehicles. Many have helped Good Works by caring for the yards, agricultural work and splitting wood. Other groups have painted, cleaned, moved, and restored parts of our facilities that needed some refurbishing. In the past years volunteers have built:

  • The addition onto the Timothy House
  • Carter Cabin
  • The Transformation Station
  • Our Administration Building and Bed & Breakfast
  • Playground for children
  • Stage for the amphitheater
  • Hope Center

You will be building on the work of previous groups. We have found that each group has a unique set of standards in going about their work, as you will also. Each group has sought to do their project to the best of their ability under our leadership. Please respect the efforts of the groups that have gone before you, as you will want others to respect your work.

Please let us know if you have any preferences or ideas for a particular work project. Although we have many needs that we are seeking to fill, we recognize that you are coming with some specific goals for your group. We want to incorporate those into the vision for your time with us.

Part of the ministry of Good Works is to serve our community through Neighbors Helping Neighbors. We will plan to make this a part of your experience with us. It is our goal that everyone in your group serve someone in our community through Neighbors Helping Neighbors. These people are elderly and/or disabled, struggling not only with poverty, but also with physical limitations. But sometimes the amount of time you are here will not allow everyone to do this.

Good Works Gardens

Good Works Gardens is first and foremost a context for connecting people from all walks of life. Relationships are the focus of this initiative  rather than the gardens themselves. In connection with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Good Works Gardens provides an opportunity for volunteers to partner with homeowners and community organizations to cultivate gardens in Athens County. Many of our garden recipients are elderly, experiencing disability or are otherwise unable to provide the labor that a garden requires. Good Works Gardens attempts to satisfy this need while encouraging relationships that bridge the divide between socio-economic classes, generational and racial groups.

We also maintain a garden on the Good Works Luhrig Road Property. The Good Works Garden is similar to the community gardens in that its primary purpose is to provide a context for a variety of volunteers and community members to cross paths. The secondary purpose of the Good Works Garden is to provide fresh, organic produce to other Good Works initiatives such as Friday Night Life, The Timothy House, Summer Lunch, The Hannah House and The Transformation Station.  Good Works Gardens is supported by volunteers from a variety of Good Works initiatives including Work Retreats, Service Living, The Teen Agricultural Internship, and The Transformation Station.

We welcome groups of all skill levels. There is much to be done on the facilities and properties requiring general skills that can be easily taught and supervised. We are often in need of groups that are willing to mow lawns, weed gardens, split wood and clean. We are also thankful for those who bring specific skills to serve with Good Works such as floor layers, masons, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, etc. Please let us know about the skill level of your group and any persons with skills that can be employed on particular specialized projects. These skills are an asset to us and we want to take advantage of them to the extent the individual is willing. We are extremely grateful for those who, working day after day in their fields, share their trade skills with us on a weekend to help us develop this ministry.

As a community, we can promote Work Retreats in two ways:

  1. We could promote our need for volunteers by specifically describing a project we need help with. Though sometimes we do this, we generally prefer not to. Since we are a ministry focusing on people and relationships, we feel strongly that starting with the project gets the focus off of these relationships. We want you to come to a community not to a project.
  2. Our preference is to promote the ministry of Good Works as a whole. Then we will generally describe the various types of initiatives that you could be involved with, determining the specific project after we learn about your group. We want to know about you first. Who are you as a community and what do you have to offer our community? What are your goals for your group? As we learn about you, we can then entrust to you the needs of our friends who have sought assistance from us or to assign specific projects on Good Works properties.? This is why the Team Profile is so important to us. This information tells us about you and the unique people that are offering themselves to serve. Occasionally leaders will give us a profile with a list of names but listing no areas of interest or skills. This makes it difficult for us to put you into places of service that are most appropriate for your group. The more information you provide us, the better we can know you before you come.

Tools and Materials
Most of the tools and equipment owned by Good Works have been donated to us. We do our best to keep our equipment safe and in working order, avoiding those frustrating scenarios of getting to a project site and having equipment that does not work. Unfortunately, this does happen. Please gives us grace and make the best out of a situation that we would rather did not happen. We will have tools to complete most of the projects with which you will be involved.

Good Works will usually have the materials needed for your project. These are paid for with the donations you give to us. Special projects may require materials that are beyond our budget. Please let us know if your group could help with these materials.?

We are not able to fund materials needed for Neighbors Helping Neighbors. The expectation is that the person being served will pay for the materials needed for their project. In some cases, they are not able to pay for these materials. This may be an area your group could help with while you are with us. If you are interested in making a separate donation toward materials for Neighbors Helping Neighbors, please let us know as soon as possible. For some people, this is the difference between their need being addressed or not.