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Evanston youth mission lends a helping hand

Prayers were answered when a church youth service group from Evanston arrived to help fix up a home for sale last week.

When Judith Wakenight died in March, her cousin Carrie Schier wasn’t sure what to do when she became executor of the estate at 410 S. Congress Ave.

The house needed to be cleaned out and fixed up before it was ready to sell, and the task was daunting.

“We had to clean it up, had debt to pay, and were thinking ‘what can we do?’” Schier said.

After finding herself in a bit of a hole, someone reached down a ladder — several someones, that is.

Fourteen kids and three adults from the Evanston United Methodist Church’s junior high youth group came to the Polo house on June 26, spending the rest of the week cleaning up, scraping old paint, and putting on a fresh coat of paint.

“It’s been just a wonderful project,” said Mike McGuire, a former Polo resident, who helps organize the youth group for their yearly missions.

McGuire keeps in touch each year through Dave and Laurie Sherrick, decades-long friends who keep him informed of service projects around Polo that could use some helping hands.

The Sherricks often reach out to Schier, like they did this time, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

“They asked me ‘do you know of anyone in need of service?’ and I said ‘you know, I sure do,’” said Schier, referring to the situation of the Congress Avenue estate.

The group helped out in Rockford for several years, but McGuire said he wanted to build better personal relationships.

“We’d do the work in Rockford, and we’re glad we could help, but it often felt like we weren’t building very good individual relationships with those we served,” said McGuire. “We tried moving it to a smaller, more rural area like Polo, and the response has been a lot better.”

James Ogunbola, a summer intern for the church, accompanies the kids on the mission trips, and said coming to Polo is quite a bit different from the suburbs they’re used to.

“Coming from affluent suburbs like Evanston, so coming to Polo is interesting, because it’s so different from where we’re from,” said Ogunbola. “Polo has been extremely welcoming, and it’s one of those small cities where everyone knows everyone, which is a wonderful, pleasant vibe.”

In spite of the sweltering heat, Ogunbola said the youth bonded over coming together to help, and getting to know a little bit about Polo, even staying on a nearby farm owned by McGuire.

The house was surrounded on all sides, with some kids on the ground level painting the front, while others were lifted on scaffolding doing the upper parts of the house.

Polo Alderman Randy Schoon provided a Skyjack 600 series 4x4 scissors lift for the group – a boon McGuire was eternally grateful for.

Despite the pressure initially being on, Schier was simply thankful for help arriving when it did.

“These kids are awesome; I’m not sure what we would have done without them,” said Schier. “This was an enormous blessing.”