Since 2002, the second Saturday morning of November unleashes a deluge of Purdue University students to serve the community through the Wesley Foundation’s . In 2021 alone, they served over 320 residents with 1,600 volunteers. Pastor Glen Robyne serves as the co-director of the Wesley Foundation and as the collaborative youth pastor for Grace UMC in Lafayette.
According to the Winterization website, it “is a community service project in which students from Purdue University assist in preparing the yards and homes of the elderly and disabled in Tippecanoe County for winter.” Volunteers rake leaves, clean gutters, wash windows, trim shrubs, and do other winterizing tasks for the residents.
When Pastor Glen first started at the Wesley Foundation in 2002, he asked a freshman student, Lauren, what she would like to see happen at the Wesley Foundation. She was taken aback, assuming they would tell her what Wesley Foundation would be doing.
The philosophy of Wesley Foundation is that it is a partnership between students and staff—and a student–led ministry. Lauren said, “I’d love to see a winterization project happen here.” Her high school in Greenwood did a Winterization project where they rake leaves of homes around town for the elderly or people who needed help.
The team of students and staff started planning. They were thrilled when 35 students showed up, and they served at 10 homes. Everyone had a great time, and they resolved to do it again the following year. Since that time, the Winterization project has only continued to grow. For the past seven years, they’ve consistently had over 1,000 students involved.
The event is not without logistical challenges. Pastor Glen said, “We quickly realized that college students don’t bring rakes with them when they move into their college dorms.” The Wesley Foundation has gotten rakes donated through local businesses, as well as through cash donations. Today, they have 1,100 rakes, which begs the question: where does one store that many rakes?
Prior to serving at Grace UMC, Pastor Glen served at First UMC in West Lafayette for 14 years. They have been a major co-sponsor of Winterization and house the 1,100 rakes.
The night before Winterization is a flurry of activity. The supplies are readied. The residents who have requested service are split into regions and assigned a “mobile command unit” who is trained to coordinate the teams in the area and equip them with supplies that can’t be carried in their vehicles, such as ladders.
Winterization begins bright and early on Saturday morning with cars arriving at 6:30 a.m. in several waves. Teams receive breakfast, their assignments, and the necessary tools.
While out on assignment, teams of 2-8 arrive at their assigned home. They meet the resident and confirm the work that needs to be done. “We try to encourage as much interaction as possible, though with COVID-19 we did much of that by telephone. The most important part for me is seeing our older residents in town interacting with college students in positive ways. The service is free, and the residents are so excited to see and interact with the students.”
After the event, the residents receive an evaluation. Many describe the impact of the Winterization saying that the service contributes greatly to their ability to remain in their home.
Year after year, Purdue students and the Wesley Foundation are being the hands of Jesus Christ as they empty gutters and wash windows—thanks be to God!