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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Making a difference in their hometown

Friday, July 16, 2010

As James Woody, an adult crew leader, cuts a sheet of metal roofing, Jimalee Thomas and college student Shelby York wait to carry it to youth workers installing the new roof. This Community Impact project was one of many First Baptist youth carried out during a week of helping homeowners in need. Photo by Richard Irby
Katherine Joice covers her ears as she steadies a sheet of roofing metal. The saw cutting it is producing a deafening whine.

A few minutes earlier Joice was up on a ladder handing materials to people installing a metal roof above her.

"I thought I'd be standing around talking or picking up trash or something," says Joice. "But I've done a little bit of everything, including driving nails. It feels good to sweat and do something good instead of sitting around at home."

Joice is among about 35 members of the Salem First Baptist Church youth group who spent last week building, painting, and cleaning up homes and property from Glencoe to Salem to Viola.

"We do a mission project each summer to teach that community service goes along with being a Christian," explained youth minister Jeff Halbert. "The past three years we have been to Nashville, Chicago and North Carolina. But, this year, we decided to stay home and launch "Community Impact" a project to do some good in this community."

Much of the youth group spent the whole week together, sleeping in two makeshift dormitories at the church and eating, meeting and worshiping in the fellowship hall.

About 35 adults also joined "Community Impact" serving as crew leaders, construction coordinators, chaperones and official "encouragers". Many of the adults gave up a week's vacation to participate.

Don Sanders, a Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy, says the sacrifice was well worth it. "These kids, they are the ones who are great. It's amazing what they are accomplishing."

During the week, the youth and their adult home improvement advisers did projects at seven different properties where owners were physically or financially unable to do badly needed home upkeep.

In one case, a youth crew completely painted the exterior of a house and installed a laminated floor inside. Another group put a metal roof on a house and installed new supports for the porch roof. At another home a shed was built and a new ramp to assist a disabled citizen was constructed at another. At one property, four youth mowed an overgrown yard while another crew took on a demolition project. Another crew roamed the city with a bucket truck picking up fallen limbs.

Halbert admits some of his youth group members were disappointed they were not able to travel out of town for this year's mission project. But, in the end, more youth than usual participated since those who were not free for a whole week could drop in to work for a day or two.

"I've enjoyed going to other communities," said John Goodson who has been on several mission trips. But, Goodson, who is now in college, sees the wisdom of working in his own backyard. "It's nice to be able to do something for this community. To give something back to ours."

Working long days wasn't the only contribution youth group members made. They all had to pay a fee to help cover the cost of T-shirts, food, and other mission costs. Some of the money they raised, during the year, for their youth fund was spent to make "Community Impact" possible.

Eighteen local businesses also made donations to help cover several thousand dollars worth of paint, lumber and other materials for the various projects.

"People are struggling to get by in this bad economy and jobs are scarce," said Halbert.

"Our goal was to try to bring back hope to the community. To show that people care and are willing to help out."

Next year, the First Baptist youth group is likely to go back to taking a week long mission trip to another city. But Halbert believes, every couple years, the group is likely to stay in Salem to continue the "Community Impact."

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