Raising the barn and the bar

Gary Lester

Even been to a barn raising? I never have, but I caught a sort-of one on “Fixer Upper” the other night. That show is fun to watch. People are looking for a new house and the stars find a run-down, outdated property and fix it up. People might have a budget of, say, $300,000. Chip and Joanna find a house that’s selling for $150,000 and turn it into a “dream home” for the other $150,000.

It always amazes me when they can knock down all the walls to create the “open concept” and it also amazes me when they find out that one wall of the foundation has to be replaced. There goes $25,000 of the “reno” budge.

Part of the charm of the show is that Chip is a real character and Joanna has a super eye for style. I always wonder if the buyers get to keep all the flowers, books, plates, and candles she uses as finishing touches.

The episode I saw the other day included a sort of barn raising. They were putting together a “pergola,” an open, airy set of arches that would span tables and chairs creating a gathering space. They were using old hand-hewn barn beams that looked to be 12 inches square. The arches looked to be 10 feet tall and 20 feet long.

It looked like a couple dozen people came to help in the old-fashioned barn raising style. The beams had mortise and tenon connections and Chip swung a huge wooden mallet to drive them together. The kids took turns driving in the 2 inch diameter foot long pegs that held everything together. Then 20 or so people lifted the arch into a vertical position using sheer muscle power aided with pike poles and guide ropes. I’ll bet the thing weighed a ton, literally.

When the crew was done, they were breathless from the exertion, but they applauded, high-fived, and hooted and hollered. The success they felt from that group effort was palpable. The team spirit that grew from the effort was inspiring.

I guess our Amish community still does things like this, but how might the rest of us experience this camaraderie and feeling of success? “Warren County Serves,” WCS, is going to give us that opportunity!

WCS is designed by a team of Leadership Warren County participants. It’s sort of like “Warren Gives,” the day when everyone is encouraged to give money to deserving groups. But Warren County Serves is all about action and volunteering and, well, “barn raising.”

The organizers are encouraging area business and industries to spring employees loose to help individual and groups who need a hand. In a move 180 degrees from Amish style, an on-line “hub” is being created where groups that need help can apply. The hub will also allow volunteers to find projects that match their talents, time schedules and passions.

Warren Serves will be at least an annual event, but a component of the mission is to help people become aware of volunteering opportunities and to make regular contributions to community projects and programs year-round.

The kick-off event will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 17-19. More information is available through WCCBI where you can access the WCS page and facebook events section.

This is a super example of what “community” is all about. It’s not inconceivable that hundreds or even thousands of people could get involved in this. Warren County Serves has the potential to raise a lot of “barns” and also raise the bar regarding volunteer activity. Check out this worthy effort and volunteer where you can!

Gary Lester is a lifetime area resident, a former photographer for the Times Observer, former market manager for WhirleyDrinkworks, retired Executive Director of Family Services of Warren County, and current Director of Leadership Warren County. He is a life-long student and commentator on human behavior.

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