406 South Maple Street was just an ordinary house in Searcy until Bible majors Matthew Wilcox and Vance Bow had a dream and ran with it. The house is currently being renovated and turned into a community outreach center for Searcy residents, especially children.
“We noticed that Searcy is kind of split into two worlds: Harding and not Harding, and we just want to start building bridges across that gap,” Bow said.
Senior Drew Howerton spends time volunteering with the Maple House and plans on getting involved with the newly launched afternoon tutoring program.
“The goal is not to get people into church doors; it’s to build relationships,” Howerton said. “It’s outside of the Harding bubble, so it gives Harding students the opportunity to get out in the real world and interact with real people in Searcy with real life joys and struggles and to build those relationships. Once we get those going, who knows where God is going to take them? We just want to bridge the gap.”
Volunteers play sports with local children after school in a lot across from the house. Regardless of the fact that the ministry is still new, they already have a few regulars.
“There’s a kid that I saw one day, and I just asked him if he wanted to play basketball, and now we hang out all the time and play basketball together,” Wilcox said. “We’re just building those relationships.”
Bow and Wilcox have high hopes of putting on community events such as cookouts, sporting events and after school tutoring. They also recently purchased the house adjacent to the Maple House and plan on turning the lot into a community garden.
“If you’re looking to volunteer just ask yourself, are you willing to step out of the Harding bubble, be present and build relationships?,” Wilcox said. “If so, we would love for you to join us.”
Bow and Wilcox said they are open to any volunteers who are interested as long as they come with a servant heart. Several volunteers have mentioned starting other opportunities for interaction, such as facilitating art projects for the children to complete.
“To us, it’s about being there,” Bow said. “Not everybody is like Matthew, and not everybody is like me. You are who you are and you are going to be able to bring your own things to the table. We just need people who are going to take initiative and make relationships with people. If those things are happening, then God’s will will be done.”