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Teens paying to spend the summer repairing homes of the needy

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – The home of Elner Jackson, 81, is falling apart. Her 50-year-old daughter suffered a stroke and is paralyzed on the right side of her body. With medical bills piling up, she can’t afford house repairs. But, on a humid 97-degree day, kids are paying out of their own pockets to repair her home in north St. Louis.

224 teenagers from around the country paid a $310 registration fee for a week-long service project in St. Louis. World Changers, a ministry of Lifeway Christian Resources, works to alleviate substandard housing and invites youth groups across America to participate. This summer, World Changers sent more than 16,000 student volunteers to almost 100 cities in North America and Canada. On average, students serving outside their own communities spent $350-$400 on top of the registration fee.

Between July 13 and July 20, church groups from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, and St. Louis are serving 17 local sites. Work can range from painting houses to putting new roofs on homes. The teens repairing houses on Davidson Avenue were constructing porches and putting up siding for three different homes on the street.

Allison Denny, 16, from Kentucky says this is her fourth year working a World Changers project. “In past years, we’ve traveled to Chicago, Gallup, New Mexico, and Roanoke, Virginia.” Denny says she enjoys helping people and rebuilding houses, and that she takes the skills she gains on these trips back home. “There’s no college class on how to fix siding or a roof. But professional construction workers teach me how to do these things myself, and when we go home, we like to help out people in our own neighborhoods. If something was broken in my own house, I could fix it myself!”

While most groups are from out of state, a group from Heartland Baptist Church in Oakland is also lending a hand. Youth Minister Benjamin Leonard says they’ve previously served other cities, but this year, wanted to give back to their own community. “World Changers has sent volunteers to this neighborhood for several summers now, so there’s plenty of opportunity to follow up and continue what we start this week later in the year. It’s such an organized project, the kids love it, and the people here really deserve the help, so we’re happy to be involved.”

Jackson says she applied to be a work site last summer when she saw volunteers working down the street. She got a call this June that her house was chosen and was thrilled to be selected. “I’m 81 – 82 next month – and I have to support myself and my daughter. I couldn’t get this work done myself. Before, it was degrading, falling down – now, it looks like a new house. I am very, very thankful.”

To learn more about World Changers: World Changers website

By: Christina Santiago Turner