When EmberHope made plans to move its headquarters back to Newton almost two years ago, a commitment to reinvest in the Youthville campus was made almost simultaneously.

According to EmberHope Chief Development Officer Lisa Capps, the Eby Learning Center was one of the first targets, as it needed a lot of work to potentially reopen by 2019. As EmberHope and USD 373 near that point (with the Opportunity Academy planned to launch in the coming fall), they are getting some assistance currently as it is volunteer week at the academy.

Volunteers who are part of a mission team from the Greater Plains United Methodist Conference descended upon the Opportunity Academy campus in Newton this week to help in efforts to prepare the school for opening — cleaning out rooms, repainting and moving furniture.

"They need it all refurbished, which means a lot of painting, a lot of tear down, a lot of fix up," said GPUMC Volunteers in Mission coordinator Marlin Brown.

"It just needed a big hug," said team leader Linda Buchmueller. "The amount of work that's been accomplished this week is unbelievable."

Members of GPUMC have been leading mission teams to assist at Youthville for 11 years now. While Brown noted the core teams are small (made up of about 11 members this year), assistance pours in from all over the GPUMC region. For example, a number of local volunteers showed up to help out at Youthville, as well as groups from Wichita, Andover, Cheney and more.

Having that much assistance, Buchmueller noted the team had the building two-thirds repainted within the first few days. While team members pay to be involved in the mission trips, their service is free to the organizations they are helping (with those fees going toward materials the organizations may need) — and Youthville is one such organization members of the GPUMC Volunteers in Mission always look forward to helping out.

"We thoroughly believe in Youthville and all the work they do," Brown said.

Brown has been a mission coordinator for coming up on 24 years — and it's something he hopes he can continue to do until he is 100 years old. Buchmueller is equally invested in the GPUMC Volunteers in Mission's purpose — to make a Christian difference through participation in hands-on mission activities (such as building a church and providing medical care) while also honoring God, sharing Christian love and enjoying God's wonderful people.

Volunteers helping with the GPUMC mission at the Opportunity Academy did not have to be members of the team, as evidenced by the numerous others who showed up during the week. As such, both Brown and Buchmueller were proponents of anyone looking to get involved in similar volunteer opportunities doing so, as they have both seen on more than one occasion the good it can do for organizations in need, as well as the individuals helping out themselves.

"I hope you don't do it just to feel good," Brown said, "but I can guarantee if you do it you'll feel darn good."