By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
For the eighth straight year, the Impact the Valley Summer Mission project has gathered 150 volunteers of all ages to donate their time and physical labor to 13 homes in the community.
Volunteers for the project come from churches and youth groups in the surrounding area, and the number of participants this year is a record for the mission project, according to Steve Jennings, executive director of Teens Opposing Poverty in Berryville. Teens Opposing Poverty is the umbrella organization for the summer mission project.
"This program is kind of unique," he said. "Folks from two different groups are assigned to each work site, so they get some inside bonding time, but also get to make new friends."
Youth participants follow a "no cell phone" rule. In the evenings when work is done for the day, participants attend praise and worship gatherings where they can reflect on the day.
"It's very reinforcing for these young people to see others just like them who want to help," Jennings said. "Not only does it help our community, but it impacts the youth volunteers greatly as well ... it's a win-win situation."
The homes receiving work were screened by Help with Housing, and consist of those belonging to low-income families. Work sites are in Clarke, Frederick, Warren and Shenandoah counties, and in Winchester.
"Some houses just need some painting or small repairs done," Jennings said of the different work sites. However, one house in Front Royal is getting a handicap ramp. Most of the individuals being helped are disabled in some way, or are senior citizens who can't do the work themselves.
Jennings added that a few of the homes are multi-year projects.
"These are some of the instances where some youth and volunteers have maintained relationships with the families they've helped," he said.
The volunteers, who started work on Sunday, will wrap up their various projects on Friday.
"Most people have no idea the number of community members who are living in extremely substandard housing," he said. "So our sincere goal is to try and meet the needs of people who are struggling to survive."