Luke Withers: Serving at SUMMIT

I started here at Chapelwood as a kid, went through the youth program, left for college, and entered the business world. Now, my wife and I are transitioning into parenthood and we’re back, seeing how a lot of the same people are still around, encouraging and impacting our lives. I enjoy being a lifetime participant of Chapelwood. We always find ourselves back here for events, for volunteering, for service, and the reason is because of the relationships.

I had been involved with U.M. Army prior to the beginning of SUMMIT. When Chapelwood decided to start SUMMIT, I thought, “Sure, I’ve always gone on church trips, so I might as well do the SUMMIT thing and see how it goes.” It got me hooked that year. I really enjoy working with my hands, giving back, and growing into a mentoring role. It was a build-up being able to share my gifts and knowledge with younger kids.

SUMMIT is unique in the fact that it draws people of all ages. You have middle school kids all the way up to adults in all stages of life. The great equalizer in SUMMIT is that it’s a work trip: you’re volunteering your time. Serving there is fun, it’s exciting, it’s hot, it’s work, but you’re with your friends and it’s great. By the end of the week you’re seeing how other people are not as well off as you, and that you’ve actually affected someone’s life in a positive way. As for the adults, I still don’t fully understand why we come back, because it’s tough. You have to take time off from work, you’re not getting paid for it, you’re sleeping on the floor, you’re exhausted the entire trip, and you’re dealing with other people’s kids.

Even so, there is a core group of the older guys that enjoy coming back. We love getting to see each other. It is time that we are having to take off work, but it’s time that we’re also getting energized and doing something that we actually enjoy doing.

It blows my mind that SUMMIT sells out like a Taylor Swift concert – in seconds.

One of my favorite memories from SUMMIT was four or five years ago. We rolled up to a jobsite and Children’s Protective Services (CPS) were, right then, taking the kids away from the house. They were being removed because the house was full of trash and not safe structurally. We asked what had to happen for the kids to get to come back and got busy working. We cleared out the trash, fixed porches and holes in the floor and made the house safe. By the end of the week CPS let the kids come back to the house, and they were reunited with their family, which was awesome.

The activity is the project, but the real goal is the relationships. Being in an environment of people who support you in your goals and your spirituality is always going to keep you moving in the right direction.