Bob Sidwell has been leading construction teams for most of his life. He is a trained civil engineer and made a career out of construction management. Twenty-five years ago when his home church, East Side Grace Brethren Church in Blacklick, Ohio, was undertaking a major construction project, Bob managed it.
“After that project, I sort of inherited the construction team,” Bob said. He’s been leading the team ever since.
Over the last two and a half decades, members from East Side Grace have been all over the world helping with construction projects. They have taken multiple trips to Ukraine, Canada, and France.
Closer to home, they have traveled to Philadelphia three times, and following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 they sent teams to New Orleans. “We’ve been blessed with a lot of people who have building abilities,” Bob said.
Perhaps their most frequented location for service trips is Eastern Kentucky. Bob has led teams to Happy Church in Jackson, Ky., more than a dozen times over the past 16 years. In March 2021 when the region experienced severe flooding, East Side Grace was one of the first to show up to help. More recently, when the area experienced severe flooding again this past July, Bob stepped up to help.
East Side Grace’s partnership with Happy Church began in 2006 when they moved from a rented storefront to a six-acre space with multiple buildings. Shortly after they acquired their space, Butch Forrest from East Side Grace reached out to Pastor Mike Tabor and offered construction assistance. Mike recalled him saying, “Make a list if everything you would like to see done on your property and we will pick and choose which ones we believe we can accomplish during our church’s summer mission trip.” Butch also assured Mike not to worry about the financial cost of the projects.
“Bob arrived with Butch Forrest, Larry Robb, and Jim Vandyne. They took a tour of the entire property while examining the list and measuring everything. Then they spent hours at our dining room table talking about and analyzing the individual projects on the list,” Mike said. “I will never forget when he came to me and said, ‘We’ll do it.’ I replied, ‘Which projects will you do?’ With a Cheshire grin that I will never forget, he said, ‘All of them.’”
Currently, Bob is helping to oversee the rebuilding process after the flooding in Jackson this summer. He has worked with Pastor Mike Tabor to ensure supplies are ready for volunteers and has helped Encompass Crisis Response Director Barb Wooler with organizing teams. He personally has made the trip from Central Ohio to Eastern Kentucky six times since July. Mike said, “Bob has been here many, many times and is a key component used by God to equip us to be able to help others grow His ministry here in Eastern Kentucky.”
While there is a core group of men who have training that often go on these trips, they are open to anyone in the church with a willingness to be an extra set of hands. “A lot of my generation is getting older, so we need the next generation to step up,” Bob commented. “A lot of these projects can’t be done by one person and sometimes just need more hands to help.” When organizing trips, Bob pairs an untrained volunteer with a trained one so they can learn as they go.
Encompass Crisis Response set a goal to complete the current flood repair by the end of October. Get more information about going to Jackson as an individual or taking a team here.