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Greenville News Community Hero Stacy Sargent demonstrates 'love thy neighbor' Rebuild Upstate

Greenville News logo Greenville News 3/17/2021 Angelia L. Davis, Greenville News
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A quote that Stacy Sargent keeps on her bathroom mirror speaks to her and about her.

The quote is from former President Jimmy Carter. It reads, “My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”

Sargent’s faith prompts her to make a difference by helping Rebuild Upstate preserve the houses occupied by their low-income homeowners.

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Sargent's longtime, above and beyond service with Rebuild Upstate has made her more than a volunteer. She's being recognized as a Greenville News Community Hero.

The Community Heroes program, sponsored by the Greenville Federal Credit Union, is our way of highlighting the generous, noble, and selfless work of those among us who work tirelessly — often behind the scenes — to make our community a better place.

a man standing in front of a forest: Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, on her property in Greer, Tuesday, Mar 9, 2021. © MATT BURKHARTT/Staff Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, on her property in Greer, Tuesday, Mar 9, 2021.

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Rebuild Upstate, a nonprofit that provides repairs to the homes of low-income homeowners so that they’ll be safer, healthier, and more livable, is an outlet Sargent has been using to make the community better since 2018.

Sargent has grown in her role at Rebuild Upstate to serve as a site leader, leading and mentoring large volunteer groups of various skillsets through a successful volunteer build day, said Abby Cooke Watson, Rebuild’s community engagement specialist, in her nomination email.

Nominate someone in your community: The Greenville News wants to share your hero's story

Even during the pandemic, Sargent and her husband, Ken, also a Rebuild Upstate volunteer, focused on keeping their family safe while also continuing to volunteer in unique ways, Watson said.

“For example, Rebuild Upstate received significant quantities of PPE to distribute to local organizations earlier in the pandemic,” Watson said. “Stacy and Ken pumped drums of hand sanitizer into gallon jugs so that this PPE could be distributed to organizations across the Upstate.”

a man standing next to a river: Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, on her property in Greer, Tuesday, Mar 9, 2021. © MATT BURKHARTT/Staff Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, on her property in Greer, Tuesday, Mar 9, 2021.

Sargent is "humbled" by the recognition because “there’s literally an army of people in our community doing the right thing.”

Nominate your neighbor: Greenville News seeks to spotlight more 'Community Heroes'

She defines a hero as someone who does things for others without expecting anything in return, someone who does good deeds simply because they feel it is the right thing to do, she said.

And that right thing can manifest itself in myriad ways but, basically, it’s selfless service, she said.

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” said Sargent, whose motivation gets very much to the spiritual realm and "how my faith guides me."

“God wants us in community and he wants us to put our faith into action,” she said. “I know not everyone can be out swinging a hammer and I get that. I’m very fortunate that I can do those things and that I enjoy those things. 

And, she said, it makes “such a big difference.”

Dedication to service

Sargent was influenced into a life of service by the words and life of Jesus Christ, as well as her parents whose lives exemplified dedication to service.

She grew up in Oklahoma and moved to Greenville County in 1991. A former environmental consultant, she got involved in the home repair type of volunteerism through their sons’ involvement in Salkehatchie, a summer service program for youths run by the United Methodist Church.

The program enables youths to spend a week during the summer making home repairs for people in need. Adults supervise the youth-led program and help with the projects, Sargent said.

More in the series: Community Heroes Project highlights neighbors giving back in community

The Sargents’ oldest son started Salkehatchie when he was 14, as part of his parents’ efforts to find various ways for him to volunteer.

a man sitting in a car: Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, works at a build site in Greenville, Monday, Mar 15, 2021. © MATT BURKHARTT/Staff Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, works at a build site in Greenville, Monday, Mar 15, 2021.

“I wanted them to be aware, number one, of how fortunate they are to grow up really lacking nothing of needs and a lot of their wants,” said Sargent, whose sons are now 23 and 20.

She also wanted them to see that people who need some help are really “no different from us.”

'A whole nother level'

The Salkehatchie program took that to a whole nother level, she said.

"It’s a seven day camp, we’re sleeping on the floor in a church, we’re eating together we’re working from literally 7 a.m.to 5 p.m., exhaustion sets in about Wednesday because we would have worship services,” said Sargent, who along with Ken, still participate in Salkehatchie. “It was a game changer for me because it really was much more in-depth.

“When you have someone in your house for dinner, it’s someone you trust, it’s an intimate thing,” she said. “So, we got to know people that just needed help and it can mean the difference between them staying in their homes and not.”

A few years ago, a Salkehatchie director made a comment that stuck with Sargent. He’d said, “You know, for the life of me I don’t know why we don’t do this more than one week a year.”

Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, works at a build site in Greenville, Monday, Mar 15, 2021. © MATT BURKHARTT/Staff Stacy Sargent, a volunteer with Rebuild Upstate, works at a build site in Greenville, Monday, Mar 15, 2021.

“I was like, ‘Let me see what I can find,” she said. What she found was Rebuild, which she said is like a year-round Salkehatchie.

“This is what I was looking for, so it’s been a love affair ever since,” said Sargent, who along with her husband, recruited a neighbor to join Rebuild Upstate.

Sargent, her husband and her neighbor, Tom, started volunteering as members of the Handyman Club, which provides higher-skilled repairs suited to small groups, Watson said.

Rebuild Upstate's repair projects include decking, electrical updates, HVAC, flooring, roofing, mold removal, plumbing, ramp installation, standing shower installation, stair repair and replacement.

Repairing homes

Over the past nearly 15 years, Rebuild Upstate has repaired over 1,100 homes in Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, and Pickens counties, Watson said.  

Sargent and her fellow volunteers have had a homeowner literally fight off tears because they put up rails on the steps out of their home.

The project took only half a day to complete, but for the homeowner it meant her husband could exit and enter their home safely, Sargent said. Before, she was petrified he was going to fall and break a hip or something, Sargent said.

“A lot of the renovations are much more involved,” Sargent said. “That was a relatively simple one.  We’ve taken some homes and, you couldn’t believe the changes that we’ve been able to do.”

Rebuild provides the structure, the project management and materials, she said. “We provide the sweat, the love and the desire,” Sargent said. “It’s something that I’m deeply, deeply passionate about.”

Rebuild held its first women-led build in March, just before the pandemic hit. Sargent led the group as they worked on a ramp.

Helping others is just one of the benefits of service through Rebuild. Another is meeting the people – volunteers and clients – and making new friends.

She credits the Rev. John Culp, founder of Salkehatchie, and Chris Manley, founder of Rebuild Upstate, for making it possible rebuilding homes a possible mission.

“We’re standing on those people’s shoulders,” she said. “They’ve set up the structure for those of us who are inclined to do this work or serve in this way. I think of ‘Love they neighbor.’ I really think that’s what we’re here to do. Doing this is a way to do that.”

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Greenville News Community Hero Stacy Sargent demonstrates 'love thy neighbor' Rebuild Upstate

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