Youth assist residents through Florida program
July 12, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Burt Hodges
Love At Work volunteers take a break from repair work.
By Nancy E. Johnson*
On the rooftop of a small frame house in Gretna, Fla., the sound of
hammering nails and ripping tar paper pierces the morning air. The teens
step gingerly as they make repairs.
“There are holes everywhere, leaking into the house,” explains
15-year-old Addison Blackwell. “The drywall inside was broken, so water
was going inside everywhere.”
The middle and high school students are part of “Love At Work,” a
summer mission program sponsored by Killearn United Methodist Church in
Tallahassee, Fla. The goal is to encourage spiritual growth in youth
through service to others.
“They’ll see they’re really blessed. They’ll see how some of these
people are living and be like wow, it’s amazing I have so much… and
they’ll be so thankful,” says Amy Hodge, the program’s social work
Founded in 1993, Love At Work is designed to help residents in
Gadsden County who live in substandard housing. The mission group serves
people in the small city of Gretna where more than one quarter of the
residents earn less than $15,000 a year. The unemployment rate is high
and almost half of the children live below the poverty line.
“I take advantage of all the things I have at my house when I come
here and realize the living conditions of all the people here,” says
Billy Humphreys, 18.
The youth spend weeks replacing roofs, building porches, painting houses and making other home repairs.
Fourteen-year-old Hannah Eacker is experiencing her first summer with
Love At Work. “At first, I was nervous and thought we were just going
to be picking up around houses,” she says. “I didn’t think we’d be doing
real construction. But after I got out of the initial fear, it’s been
fun and I’ve had a good time.”
|A UMNS photo by Burt Hodges
Youth volunteers make repairs to a home in Gretna, Fla.
The families they serve are grateful for the help. Cheryle Rahman
lives in the neighboring town of Quincy. Her husband was in hospice; her
mother is 93 years old and in poor health.
She needed help with home repairs. The students replaced the siding
on her house and painted it vintage green. “I just thank God for the
work of their hands,” she says.
The scope of Love At Work is expanding beyond housing. When Hodge
gets calls and referrals for people needing home repairs, she asks if
they also need clothing and food and then refers them to the appropriate
Blackwell has gone to the camp for five years but what he sees every
summer still surprises him. “Just how people can live in a house without
electricity, filled with water… It’s a mess,” he says.
Eacker had a similar reaction when she saw the poor living conditions
in Gadsden County. “I was very surprised because I’ve always lived in a
community that was very sheltered,” she recalls. “I never thought about
how close poverty can really be.”
Hodge points out that “even just a little bit of paint can make such a
difference to these people. We’re doing something for them, but they’re
really ministering to us as well.”
*Johnson is a Florida-based, freelance television and print journalist.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or email@example.com.