WAUSAU (WAOW) - A Wausau couple helps the needy in countries far from the shores of America, having been instrumental in shipping hundreds of tons of donated materials and building supplies to Jamaica and Kenya.
For those efforts through a project called Helping Hands, Tom and Mary Pat Roovers are honored with a Jefferson Award.
Since launching Helping Hands in 1996, they have collected donations and supplies to build churches, schools and homes.
They also organize groups of volunteers to travel to Jamaica and Kenya to help with the work.
"It is a labor of love for all of them. It is neat to see how others end up with that same passion we have and the wonderful feeling you get from helping others," Tom Roovers said.
The couple started their mission work in Jamaica.
Mrs. Roovers said the faith of the people she meets there inspires her. "They are happy and singing about God and that is where they get their strength. It is beautiful to see."
In 2003, the Roovers expanded the organization and started doing volunteer work in Kenya, Africa.
"They are concerned about survival. They don't worry about things we worry about. They are concerned about survival in terms or water or food," Mr. Roovers said. "Our work there covers the gamut, building churches, a hospital and working in villages where they build mud houses. And now we have started work with a Maasai high school for girls."
People continue to volunteer to help Helping Hands - largely through word of mouth, the Roovers say. Some provide financial assistance and others donate supplies or the time to collect, pack and prepare materials and supplies for shipment.
Helping Hands volunteers have made dozens of trips to Jamaica and Kenya.