Temple outreach efforts reaching locals through COVID-19 struggles

Published 12:29 am Saturday, August 1, 2020

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United Methodist Temple in Port Arthur has earned a growing reputation for local outreach, especially construction projects for community members in need.

Those “clients” don’t have to be church members or connected to The Temple in anyway.

They just have to present a need that, God willing, is something church volunteers can help fix or improve.

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“We just try to help anyway we can,” Temple Youth Director Emily Letulle said. “We have been in the midst of this (COVID-19) shutdown, but people’s needs have not shut down. We just have to keep reaching out and paying it forward where we can.”

Temple volunteers have not had any problem staying active, with youth participation often serving as the driving force.

Just this week church members installed a wheelchair ramp for a couple in Groves.

Last week they erected a privacy fence and upgraded a porch for a Port Arthur client who they had also helped the year before with a wheelchair ramp.

Boy and Cecile Landry take a ride down their new wheelchair ramp, which was built by volunteers from United Methodist Temple.

Construction of another wheelchair ramp for a Groves client is slated for next week.

Letulle said the church’s focus on outreach changed after Hurricane Harvey and the widespread local destruction.

“All hands on deck, whether you were able to just give to the cause, actually come out and be the hands and feet working or come out and feed us a snack or lunch,” Letulle said. “Everybody is welcome. There is a place for everyone to plug in.”

Church volunteers were able to make an impact at more than 30 locations following Harvey’s destruction and contributed to improvement at ten locations following Tropical Storm Imelda.

Missions have always been near and dear to Temple hearts, where mission camps are hosted at the church and yearly missions trips are conducted by middle school and high school teams.

The coronavirus canceled those trips this year, but not the outreach.

“We have become known as the church that has hands on deck if you need a wheelchair ramp or local project,” Letulle said. “You don’t have to be a church member. Most of (our clients) are just cold calls. People call in or it’s word of mouth. They get on the list and we mark them off as we have time to get the job done.”

Youth volunteers paint the porch for a client this summer.

The Mission routinely partners with Catholic Charities, local schools or other organizations to maximize impact.

Letulle said church leaders encourage their sixth grade members to take a mission trip while also teaching them the skills to provide hands-on work.

As they grow older, they get better with the tools and their grasp of the project work increases.

Outside of the tangible construction benefits, church members also have an opportunity to make connections in the communities they serve.

Letulle said family members of this week’s client with no Temple connection came out and helped, including a 9- and 10-year old.

“We were able to show them how to use a drill, and they were helping build their great grandpa’s wheelchair ramp,” she said. “They just loved it, and we have heard from them since. They said whenever we continue they would love to know, and their mom would love to bring them out. They had such a great time, and we didn’t know them from Adam. They were just there and willing to help on the day we showed up.”

For more information about church service times or outreach efforts, call 409-962-5762. The Temple is located at 4101 Texas 73.