MERGE Program Again A Success in Toccoa

Volunteers from across the state of Georgia are back in their communities after spending time last week in Toccoa with local volunteers on a community improvement effort.

The annual MERGE Program took place last week in Stephens County.

The Georgia Baptist Convention organizes MERGE.

Youth Ministries Specialist Doug Couch said MERGE is a program that the Convention began several years ago.

“We wanted to know what would it look like if the community leadership merged together their resources to go out and serve the community,” said Couch. “This is the sixth year for MERGE and it has grown every year and it continues to grow. The response of the community has been incredible.”

According to Ann Ash with the Georgia Baptist Conference Center, MERGE brings over 200 volunteers from outside Toccoa each summer.

Also, she said this year; there were over 137 local students and adults who all donated three full days of work.

Couch said those volunteers all worked together to complete a variety of projects.

“They were able to do 19 different projects, including several roofing projects, many handicapped ramps, painting, as well as landscaping,” said Couch. “We also put a lot of emphasis on community ministry projects such as mentoring boys and girls at the (Boys and Girls) Club. They spend a lot of time on nursing home ministry.”

Couch went on to say that the support from the Stephens County community has always been unbelievable.

He added that it is an interdenominational effort, with local churches from across the spectrum getting involved.

Meanwhile, Ash added that church and civic groups, along with individuals served over 650 lunches to the groups working on the projects.

She said they appreciate all of the donations from individuals, businesses, churches, and civic organizations that make MERGE possible.

Couch also said that MERGE would not happen without a lot of support.

According to Couch, Toccoa has served as a pilot program to see how such an effort would work.

He said plans are to continue it next year and in the years ahead in Toccoa, while also pursuing opportunities to begin the program elsewhere if possible.