Photo by Heather Middleton
By Michael Davis
A group of students, on Thursday, worked to dismantle a battered boat full of blankets and lawn debris. Across Jackson, another grouped worked to paint a Mulberry Street home in need of a facelift.
With 15 projects undertaken throughout the week of April 4 through April 8, 130 young people and 45 adults participated in the Community Changers project, a collaboration involving four churches across three counties in which students spend their spring break lending a hand to those who could use one.
According to the Rev. Roger Allen, minister of middle school and student missions at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, this is the project's sixth year, and its second using Jackson as a home base. He said the student-volunteers sleep overnight at Jackson High School, and use showering facilities at Jackson First Baptist Church, before heading out for a day's work on project sites from Forest Park to Flovilla. He said he was thankful for the Butts County Board of Education's support in allowing the project to use the high school.
"The overall mission of the project is ultimately to get the students to love on the people right there around them," Allen said. "We can fulfill the great commission by going out and reaching people right here in our own community."
The four churches involved in the project include First Baptist of Jackson, First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, Macedonia Baptist in Jackson, and Crossray Baptist in Henry County, Allen said. The work crews on the various projects include middle school, high school and college students supervised by adult crew chiefs.
On Bakers Circle outside Jackson on Thursday, students tidied up the yard of the home where Denise Sherwood lives with her mother. A teen and an adult from First Baptist of Jonesboro also worked on reroofing the home.
Chris Boggs, 15, said he enjoyed the opportunity to spend his spring break helping someone else.
"At the end of the day, seeing them smile makes me feel good," he said.
Sherwood said she and her mother would've been unable to do the work around the house because of mobility issues. "We very much so appreciate their help," Sherwood said of the students. "If it weren't for them I don't know what we would do," she said.
Allen, who is coordinating the Community Changers project for the four churches, said the projects that were chosen for the students to work on came to the project's organizers by word of mouth.
At the Mulberry Street home, an army of young people were dipping brushes and rollers into white and green paint and putting a fresh coat on Theresa Aquil's home. They had started the project Tuesday, and crew chief, the Rev. Larry Lawrence, associate pastor of students and families at First Baptist of Jonesboro, said they would likely be finishing up on Thursday.
Mark Kline, 17, of Jonesboro, found himself atop a ladder Thursday, painting the trim above the porch of the home. This was his first year on the project, and he said it had taught him several lessons.
"It's not just about you," he said. "It's about other people. When stuff needs to be done, step up and take charge and do what you need to do."
Aquil said she cares for her four grandchildren ages 6 to 12, and that her mother lives in the home as well. She said the paint on the home had long needed attention and she was glad for the help from the students in getting the job done.
"I appreciate everything they've done for me," she said. "It's nice to have help."