Bellefonte

‘Adopt-a-Block’ brings service, festivities to communities in Milesburg, Bellefonte

Branwyn Blackmun, left, and Melanie Butler pull weeds on Tuesday at a house along Front Street in Milesburg. A team from Freedom Life Church is performing community service this week at a number of different locations in Milesburg and neighboring communities.
Branwyn Blackmun, left, and Melanie Butler pull weeds on Tuesday at a house along Front Street in Milesburg. A team from Freedom Life Church is performing community service this week at a number of different locations in Milesburg and neighboring communities. nmark@centredaily.com

Kelsey Bullock sifted through the driveway’s stones, fishing out weeds among the gravel. Yards away, her brother, Bryar, was busy power-washing the house’s brick facade.

“Tired,” though, wasn’t in their vocabulary, Bullock, 20, said. They had a party to throw later.

“We’d actually make you do a couple of pushups for saying that,” she said, laughing.

The siblings were helping clean up around a local residence, the first of 12 that are scheduled to receive a little love this week as part of an effort by Freedom of Life Church and One 18 Movement, a nonprofit that conducts faith-based outreach projects. Dubbed “Adopt-a-Block,” the initiative brings a team from the church to homes in Milesburg and Bellefonte, where its members help with everything from pulling weeds to painting porches. After the work is finished, the group hosts a block party for the community later that evening.

On Tuesday, the first day of the project, the party appeared to have started early for the 18 volunteers. Bullock, for instance, watched her brother smile underneath a pair of sunglasses as he tried out the power washer.

“The whole goal here is to get out and serve,” said Jeremy Davis, who was guiding Bullock’s brother. “So if (the owner) says ‘hey, I need my car washed,’ we’ll do that, too.”

Davis’ home remodeling company, ForeFront, provided the tools and machinery for the project, which runs until Friday. On Saturday afternoon, the group plans to throw the week’s biggest block party at the church, located at 113 Sunset Acres in Milesburg.

The parties, held on blocks or parks in Milesburg and Bellefonte, include live music and skits, each performed by the church’s youth. One performance, called “Garbonics,” turns garbage cans and other household items into a percussion piece. Festival food standbys — popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs — accompany the show.

Jen Daugherty, the church’s youth pastor, thought about localizing the project after hearing about its origins. Started by The Dream Center, a Los Angeles-based volunteer organization, “Adopt-a-Block” programs have gained in popularity, spreading to communities around the country. According to the organization’s website, more than 135 blocks have been “adopted.”

Daugherty wanted to bring the project’s benefits she saw in other areas to Centre County. At the beginning of the year, she enlisted a team within the church to help canvass neighborhoods and gauge interest. After a drawing, the homes were chosen.

“I’ve always wanted to do an Adopt-a-Block in this area,” Daugherty said. “I’m excited about getting outside the four walls of our church and doing what we talk about Sunday after Sunday.”

While Daugherty was helping direct action out front, Luke Roan was plucking weeds in the backyard. Luke, one of the church’s youth, tossed them into a nearby bin as two friends assisted.

“We’re just trying to clean out around houses and be helpful to other people,” Luke, 13, said.

Bullock, who joined the One 18 staff this summer, was once in Luke’s shoes. She started as a student four years ago and eventually became an intern. Now she’s helping train the next generation. It was rewarding, she said, to see the same faces later at the party. She’s led some of the practices for the performances, which also include a dance and a puppet show.

As for the power-washing, she said she’ll leave that to her brother.

“I don’t know if he’s ever done that before,” she said, smiling, “but he’s going to try.”

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy

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