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Youth Volunteers Improve Homes Of Those In Need

The first-ever Pensacola Work Camp is winding down. Coordinated nationally by the Colorado-based Group Cares program, the outreach ministry Grace of Pensacola has hosted over 200 young people from churches in nine states. They've spent the week in Pensacola providing repairs and improvements to the homes of eligible residents.

Across the city, there a few worksites, where homes are getting a facelift.

On Marcus Drive, which is tucked between the four-lane roadways of Fairfield Drive and Texar Drive, there are several houses that are getting some attention.  

Todd Tyler, an adult chaperon from western Kansas, is leading a group that’s been working at the home of Charles Lymons.

“This was mainly minor repair and painting around the outside of the house, not too difficult,” says Tyler, who adds that all of the young volunteers in his charge have grabbed a brush to help get the job done.

One of the teens at the Lymons home is Zachery Burke, a high school senior from Houston. Burke has just climbed down for the roof, “I was just painting some of the boards up there and filling in some of the spots that we missed. So, we had to scrap all of the cracking paint up there and we had to prime it and just put a couple of layers of paint up there.”

A few houses down, there’s another crew that’s been hard at work under the guidance of adult leader Michelle Hicks from Denver, Colorado.

We painted the exterior. We rescreened all the screens in the windows, and we fixed some drywall inside of the house and fixed a garage door that was peeling. We fixed the front of it,” Hicks explained.

Before they broke for lunch, the only boys in Hicks’ group, 17-year-old Jesus Garcia from Kansas and Cameron Foreman, a college sophomore from Missouri, were putting the finishing touches on a new paint job for the mailbox. It’s a light blue color to match the home.

We’ve practically been working on the same things like fixing the screens, painting around the house and the girls were working on the drywall on the inside,” said Garcia.  I got to use some power tools to cut some wood and I nailed it,” said Garcia and Foreman, with the girls on site chiming in about leaving the power tools to the boys, accept for a drill.

The owner of this particular home is Waymon Hunter, who inherited the house from his mother, who died last fall.  Hunter says he’s grateful for the work and impressed with the efforts of the young people.

“It’s a blessing. They worked. When they first showed up, I was like, ‘they’re young and a bunch of girls,’ but they were amazing. They surprised me. They really did,” says Hunter.

Sophia Peña, a high school junior Houston Texas, is one of the young ladies that’s been working on the Hunter home. She says this is her first time taking part in a ‘workcamp’ and she was glad to do it.

“It’s been a really neat experience and I feel really transformed after finishing. We’ve worked really hard and it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that we’ve made a difference in these people’s lives.”

Camille Myers, a college freshman from from Roscoe, Illinois, is much more experienced, now on her 6th ‘workcamp.’ But, she agrees with Peña’s assessment, “I’m pretty experienced in the painting and I got to do some drywall that I knew how to do…I did some in Louisiana a couple of summers ago. But, I would say yea; it’s really cool to see the house change and see the residents be really excited about what we’ve done.”

All totaled, the 225 youth volunteers – sponsored locally by the Christ Church outreach ministry Grace of Pensacola - are making the upgrades to the homes of more than 30 elderly, handicapped and lower-income residents in the City of Pensacola.

And, when the work is done at the end of each day, the teens and their adult chaperones retire to Washington High School where they’re staying for a little fellowship. And, according to chaperone Michelle Hicks, they look forward to some much deserved down-time, “We are pretty much scheduled all the time. So, by the time it’s lights out, we’re exhausted and tired.”

At this point, there’s just a little more to be done. The first Pensacola Workcamp will wrap up on Saturday, June 21. 

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.