Skip to content

Young Harris College Men’s Soccer team works with local community

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Living on your own, especially later in life, can be difficult and lonely. So, players from the Young Harris College Men’s soccer team decided to make a difference in the lives of some elderly residents in the local area.

Partnering with Hearts in Ministry, a program with the Hayesville First United Methodist Church, the team’s 46 players, and three coaches spent the last few months working on everything from home repair to yardwork at the resident’s homes in the area. The players also spent time visiting with the residents.

“When we saw the need, I knew this was something we wanted to do,” said Dean Grey, head coach of the Men’s Soccer team. “So often, you can give money to a charity and that’s it, but we saw this as an opportunity to get really involved in the lives of people in the community and make a difference. It wasn’t just one and done. The players have an ongoing relationship with the residents.”

So much so, the residents were invited to attend home soccer games at Young Harris College, Grey said. The team even presented residents at a recent game with Young Harris College shirts, signed by the players. Shirts were also delivered to other residents who could not attend the games.

“I want you (Grey) and the guys to know how much I appreciate the kindness and hard work,” said one of the residents helped by Hearts in Ministry. “They seem to be very fine young men and I am so happy to see them in this world.  I can tell that you are a very good role model for them. Take care, stay safe and God Bless all of you.”

Hearts in Ministry is a year-old program, devoted to helping frail seniors retain their independence. The agency serves anyone who is age 60+, living independently in Clay County, and diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness. Volunteers provide services such as home visits, yard work, and home repairs

“You can’t love what you don’t care about, and you can’t care about what you don’t know about,” said Jane Hart, who runs the Hearts in Ministry program. “Besides various yard clean-up projects, the players removed and replaced a dangerously broken concrete patio where one of our care recipients had fallen, was injured, and laid there for hours before she got help. It was hot, back-breaking, dirty, gnat-infested work, but the young men were all-in. This team is not only building bridges across generations but building bridges internationally.”

The student athletes loved the opportunity as well: “The collaboration with Hearts of Ministry was a great experience for the men’s soccer team,” said Patricio Padilla, a senior from Mexico. “It was great to be able to help the community who supports us year-round. But, not only that, it was amazing to hear the stories behind all the people we were able to help.”

Riccardo Sambugaro, a senior from Italy, agreed: “It’s been an honor collaborating with Hearts in Ministry, having the chance to do some good in the community. It showed the value of the people of the men’s soccer program.”

Grey looks to continue the effort in the future: “I can’t say enough about how these chaps went above and beyond. They often worked on Sunday afternoons, which was their only down time between class and soccer. And it was about connection, with people – not just the work, but the conversation ongoing between the students and the people we worked with.”

Hart summed it up: “I knew nothing about soccer or these students but have come to really like the first and love the second. These young men, who represent 17 different nations, are very kind to our recipients, respectfully follow the direction of their coaches and eagerly learn skills from our volunteer supervisors. I feel like I have 46 new grandsons and praise God for inspiring this idea.”

About Young Harris College

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires, and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science, and Technology; and Professional Studies. Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the Conference Carolinas. For more information, visit