(Griffith, Indiana) - Nearly 300 young volunteers from around the country spent last week helping low-income homeowners and local non-profit organizations make some much-needed repairs.
On Polk Street in Gary, a team of volunteers calling themselves the ‘Saw Teeth’ crew painted and made home repairs for Arthur Houser, an 81-year old retired trucker. A crew dubbed the ‘Paint Chips’ spruced up Minietta Nelson’s home on Pierce Street while the ‘Shingle Bells’ fixed up Anna Brown’s home on Monroe Street.
“This is my fourth time doing this. I like volunteering because it allows me to live out my Christian values and it shows how much we can achieve when we work together,” said crew leader Linda Rollins from Ypsilanti, Michigan near Ann Arbor. “And besides it’s fun.”
Ranging in ages from 13 to 20 years old, the volunteers are part of World Changers which provides Christian youth and adults with opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others through practical learning experiences that teach servant-hood and personal commitment to missions.
They’re just a fraction of the group’s mission project involving nearly 18,000 students in more than 85 cities nationwide this summer. Started in Tennessee in 1990, the Christian organization has since completed over 1,400 projects. They provide free labor, tackling projects like fixing and replacing roofs and siding, painting, repairing porches and decks, building ramps for the frail and disabled.
This is the 16th year World Changers have been coming to Northwest Indiana. The students pay their own expenses which can run $500 or more. They were divided into teams of 10-11 by age with two adult crew chiefs.
During their week-long stay, 297 teens and young adults devoted 2,376 volunteer hours with a market value of nearly $52,000. They were housed at Thornton Fractional High School in Lansing and fed by the Salvation Army of Lake County and local churches.
Working quietly behind the scenes orchestrating it all was the United Way Regional Volunteer Center which is funded by Lake Area United Way and United Way of Porter County. Chris Eller Esparza, volunteer coordinator, was in charge of securing and setting up all of the projects.
“We collaborated with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Terri Martin, executive director of the Gary Community Health Foundation and various businesses to provide the needed materials for those who couldn’t pay for it themselves. For the last two years, BEHR has donated nearly 425 gallons of paint to help support the World Changers project,” she explained.
“Last week’s hot weather was terrible, but we made sure the volunteers got all water they could drink down, were well-fed and got plenty of rest. It’s an exhausting week, but the smiles on the faces of the homeowners and at the charities was worth it all,” she grinned.
For more information on World Changers, visit: http://www.lifeway.com/worldchangers/.
To find local volunteer opportunities near you, go to the United Way Regional Volunteer Center at: www.nwivolunteer.org. You can search for area projects by zip code or area of interest.