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December 15, 2003   Email to Friend 

Lending A Helping Hand
Tiffany Trueblood

Alfa Agent Beth Darnell embraces children she met during a mission trip to Honduras.
Insurance is about helping people. Meeting people you've never met before and helping protect their future. It's the nature of the business, and Alfa's dedicated personnel do so every day, with some agents going beyond the Southeast and even the United States to find new places with new faces to help.

Many agents give their time and resources to charitable organizations and causes, some even give others four walls and a roof over their head. Agents Doug Weaver and Mark Vise have traveled throughout the United States to do just that, while Millbrook, Ala., Agent Beth Darnell has traveled beyond America's borders to help people in need. Each has a different approach, but the feeling each gets from their work is just as rewarding.

While most insurance agents are out supplying coverages for homes and buildings, Montgomery, Ala., Agent Doug Weaver and Cleburne, Ala., Agent Mark Vise are building them. Weaver is part of the Carpenters for Christ mission group, and for the past 19 years he and others have traveled the country building churches for communities in need.

"Every year we take a group of about 100 people and go to a community or area that can't afford to build a church," Weaver said. "We spend 10 days there, and when we leave, they have a fully functional building."

Weaver began helping others when he went on a mission trip with his children to Mexico. There he and a group of youth built homes for those who were living in poor conditions.

"The people we helped were living in small, 10-by-10 structures," Weaver said. "It was sobering to see how blessed we are and how we can help change others' lives."

Vise also helps others in need with their homes through the World Changers program. World Changers takes youth from around the country and sends them to an area needing help.

"My daughter was in the program and she's the one who got me involved," Vise said. "Our first trip was to Savannah, Ga., where we helped people who couldn't afford or weren't able to repair their homes. It was so exciting, and upon our return, I was ready to go back again."

World Changers takes a group of 400 to 500 youth to an impoverished area, and from there the group is broken down into many groups of 12 to 15 people. These groups work for a week fixing roofs, painting, cleaning and repairing the homes of people the city says qualify for help.

"It's amazing to see all these young people come together and work side by side, with people they've never met, for someone they don't even know," Vise said. "Each trip is special in its own way, and each experience gives me a different perspective of how other people live."

Weaver says the opportunity to help others gives him a feeling of peace and accomplishment. "I have truly learned that it is more blessed to give than to receive," Weaver said. "And when you give to someone who cannot give to themselves, it reminds you that there's a whole bigger world outside of you, but you are a part of it and can help it."

Last year when Agent Beth Darnell listened to a missionary from Ecuador speak, she knew she wanted to help those in need.

"I wanted to do it," Darnell said. "I found some ladies who were planning to go on the next trip to Nicaragua and talked to them. After it weighed on my heart for several days, I signed up for the trip."

Putting aside her fears of what was going on in the world and how others may feel about Americans, Darnell flew to Nicaragua for a week-long trip. During the week she helped paint homes that Project Hope had built.

This year, Darnell took her second mission trip and brought her 12-year-old son, Ricky. They and their group took beans and rice as well as cooking pots to homeless people in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. They also visited Grace Farm, a place where once homeless children receive shelter, food, clothing and other basic necessities.

While at Grace Farm, Darnell, Ricky and others worked in the fields alongside the residents of the farm and planted corn with yoked oxen.

"I was the arts and crafts director," Darnell said. "We made crafts to send to the children's sponsors and took them bowling and bought each of them a pair of pants and a shirt."

Darnell says the moment that stands out most in her mind is when she saw a little girl sitting in a dumpster, eating whatever she could find, surrounded by buzzards.

"It's things like this that make you appreciate what we have and what we take for granted," said Darnell. "I just wish I would have gotten involved in programs like this earlier in my life."

Darnell is excited about returning to Honduras next year. On her desk are two constant reminders of her trip-- the photos of two children she sponsors in Honduras.

Darnell encourages others to participate in mission trips and to help others in need and offers words of advice to those who are interested or planning to do so.

"Don't go in and feel like you have to fix everything in one trip," Darnell said. "You can't change everything in one trip, but you can start to make a difference."

Tiffany Trueblood is a marketing communications specialist with Alfa Insurance.


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