In 2015, Week of Hope volunteers helped with invasive weeds in downtown La Salle.
Several hours and seven trucks later, the city center was clear. It was volunteer Zach Neitzel’s first project with Hope Week, and since then, Neitzel said he hasn’t seen a single weed downtown.
Now Neitzel is one of the leaders of the Hope Week program. He said he liked it because he could directly see the impact of his actions on the community, such as the lack of weeds in downtown La Salle for the past seven years.
“It’s important that we do things for the community…and do things ourselves,” Neitzel said. “People appreciate that more, and it’s good for your own soul.”
Volunteers from local churches take part in Week of Hope from June 5-11, a week full of volunteer projects that benefit the community. Meanwhile, volunteers help local parks, businesses, and nonprofits while hoping to inspire others.
Senior Pastor Cameron Graper launched the Week of Hope through La Salle Axis Church eight years ago. Graper said the purpose of Hope Week is not to organize events or seek donations. Instead, it’s about giving time to fix or improve something in the community. Examples of Week of Hope projects include cleaning up parks, landscaping, painting community centers and tiling for non-profit organizations in many cities across several counties, including Bureau, Putnam and the room.
Graper said these projects are condensed into a week to get local attention and give people hope for good things to happen in their community.
“We see a lot of desperation in our society,” said volunteer Daniel Davis. “It’s trying to give hope, and maybe it will [inspire people].”
Since the project began, Graper said they’ve volunteered for a total of $115,000 worth of projects. This year, they are set to volunteer $30,000 in projects by the end of the week.
Although the program is run by the Ax Church, everyone is welcome to volunteer. Graper said there were volunteers from eight nearby churches.
Amber Leibov said she joined Week of Hope five or six years ago because she loves volunteering. She is participating in a week of hope project every day this week.
Leibov also participates in My Hope Week. Compared to Week of Hope team projects, My Week of Hope is an individual project that volunteers can do in their spare time. Leibov made goody bags with Bible verses and distributed them to people. She said it created great conversation and interest in the church and the service.
There are between 150 and 200 Week of Hope volunteers this year. Some, like Leibov, participate every day, while others help with one or two projects. In their first year, Week of Hope volunteers accumulated a total of 900 hours of community service. This number has steadily increased since and this year they will reach a total of 2,200 hours.
If you want to join the Week of Hope or want to follow, follow the Week of Hope on social media. They post daily recap videos with their projects of the day on Instagram and Facebook.