Saturday morning workouts took on a whole new meaning for the Midlothian Heritage football team this past weekend. Instead of hours of game film and conditioning on the turf, the Jaguars traded their helmets in for hardhats and sweat rags for a morning spent tackling a need in the community.
Gloryland Express, a para-church bus ministry, was in dire need of a couple of strong hands and backs to give a few former school buses-turned-ministries-on-wheels and the property a much-needed facelift.
And the Jaguars knew exactly what to do.
The team broke into 11 groups and spent the entire morning building a porch, spreading pallets of grass, building a brick sidewalk, using shovels and a jackhammer to dig holes and then set posts in concrete and constructing a 9-square game. There was also an old hot tub converted into an inground pond for fish, one group that laid a pair of concrete slabs in two different areas and, eventually, a good scrubbing of the buses used by the ministry.
“It was very cool to volunteer because Midlothian is a very supportive community so to be able to give back, even though it wasn’t much, just felt really good," said Heritage football player Zach Bruce, who was tasked with helping form the concrete slabs in the front yard of the ministry.
Gabe Vasquez, a junior running back and linebacker, was a member of the group that rebuilt the porch and cleaned a few busses. He noted, "It was really great to be able to do something that’s bigger than yourself and to get out there and help other people.“
Haydon Wiginton, a sophomore wide receiver, echoed the sentiment of his teammates.
"It was a good experience," said Wiginton, who helped move bricks, spread gravel and wash busses. "Those kids don’t have a lot of the things that we do so it was awesome to be able to go out there and work on something that will bring a lot of happiness and give them a chance to be safe."
Wyatt Snider, whose family runs the camp and bus ministry, said, "this is an amazing group of young men. The athletes did three months of work today. Thank you so much!"
Gloryland Express is a bus ministry focuses on helping Midlothian and Venus children "learn about good citizenship, making good choices and about our Lord," reads its website. It also provides the transportation needed for those children to get to a home church or the camp for a day of the gospel and wholesome activities.
Those activities will also soon include a new playground, thanks to a $2,500 grant awarded by the Jaguars on behalf of the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.
Gloryland Express also helps train local church workers start bus ministries, provides free food through its General Store and helps other bus ministries maintain their fleets.
The ministry hosts all-day Saturday visitation on its grounds, twice monthly Sunday afternoon chapel with bus routes, weekly school chapels, weekly after-school chapel, free summer camp programs, and much more.
The church home for Gloryland Express, located at 5211 Whitehead Rd in Midlothian, is First Baptist Church of Midlothian.
Heritage head football coach Lee Wiginton said it was "really refreshing watching these guys work together in such a selfless manner."
"Throughout the day there were numerous times a call came from different areas of the property asked for a free hand, and there was never a shortage of volunteers," Wiginton continued. "They worked non-stop the entire morning and got a ton accomplished."
The head coach added, "As someone who graduated from high school many years ago, I hear many people say that kids have changed and they're just different than we were. You know, I think I have to agree. I don't remember too many times to where all of my friends woke up on a Saturday morning and went out and worked all morning just because they wanted to do something to help make a positive impact on our community. Thank you, athletes, for blessing so many people this weekend."