Hundreds of youngsters will be tending to dilapidated porches, painting homes with a fresh coat of paint or teaching Vacation Bible School this summer throughout Gainesville.
The small renovation jobs, performed by kids with mission camp TEAMeffort, are currently helping out residents of the Baker and Glover Mobile Home Park in Gainesville.
“These groups work during the school year to be able to organize and come here during the summer and spend a week of their summer and do work,” said camp director Doug Jones. “They are building a roof over here and building a wheelchair ramp.”
The teens are coming to Hall County from all over, he said.
“I guess what it does for me is you get to work with really great people and you see kids from around the country,” he said. “A lot of times you hear bad things about kids and these kids are really working hard.”
TEAMeffort, now based in Gainesville, plans mission projects for church youth groups throughout the country and overseas.
The camp will welcome 500 to 600 kids to Gainesville alone to complete projects for those in need.
During the week of their stay they are based at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland and next summer the camp will be at a new location in Sautee Nacoochee.
Jones, a father of three, moved the organization to Gainesville last year for a couple reasons. For example, he liked that Gainesville is centrally located to many of TEAMeffort’s camps.
“This is our first summer to do programs locally,” said Jones, who moved TEAMeffort to the Gainesville area from Clearwater, Fla. about a year and a half ago.
According to TEAMeffort’s Web site, the organization in the last 15 years has brought more than 50,000 youth and leaders together to work on mission “experiences.” The young missionaries repair and renovate homes, work in homeless shelters and respond to natural disasters, among many other projects. TEAMeffort supplies the projects, tools, material, meals, program and housing during the mission projects.
Cynthia Heard, the youth pastor of Church of Christ in Fort Myers, Fla., said her youth group has attended TEAMeffort for eight summers now, but this is their first stop in Gainesville.
“It’s a bonding experience for them, and they get to do something for the community. And it’s just an all around great thing,” she said. “They are very relationship oriented ... it’s nice to see the effect on the community.”
This week the eight students that Heard brought from southwest Florida are repairing an old mobile home by adding fresh paint, a new porch and maybe some landscaping.
“Hopefully we’ll start some yard work,” Heard said. “We stay for one week and somebody else will come in ... that is part of the process. Even though it’s frustrating sometimes because they haven’t finished the job, it’s part of the process that you do your part and someone else comes in and does their part.”
Another youth group from Florida installed a temporary wheelchair ramp for the Craig family.
“I think it is awesome,” said Wannie Craig, a mother of four who lives in Baker and Glover. “They are going to expand that porch and make a bigger ramp for his (son Dylan’s) wheel chair.” Dylan, 6, has been diagnosed with Leigh’s disease, a neurological disease, and needs the ramp for his wheelchair.
“I noticed last year ... that he was favoring one arm,” Wannie said. “Then he got where he would run with just one arm up ... so I called the doctor. I would go to the doctor and they would say nothing was wrong with him, that he was just a typical boy.”
The Craigs are scheduled to go with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to Disney World in late July and the permanent ramp will be installed by the time they return.
Another youth group from Denver United Methodist Church in Denver, N.C., is helping to build stairs, a playground and paint with TEAMeffort.
“I’ve done several different missions with different mission organizations and as a youth pastor I feel like the staff here is grounded and their purpose and mission is right and they do a good job,” said Charlie Brown, youth pastor at Denver UMC. “They have a heart for working for church and getting the missionaries to get stuff done.”
Campers Missy Laurence, 14, and Trey Kresge, 11, said they are participating in the mission work because they want to help others.
“We’ve been building awnings and we have been digging pipes under the ground and we’ve also been painting the floor so we can paint it a different color later,” Kresge said.