Walter Levesque stood in his front yard off of White Oak Road Tuesday morning and watched the flurry of activity around him. A crew from Mission:McDuffie was hard at work cutting tree limbs and clearing overgrowth for the man who was partially paralyzed after being hit by a dump truck five years ago.
"This is the second year they've done this for me, but they've done a lot more this year. They do a terrific job. They do it just like I would do if I could do it myself," Mr. Levesque said.
Now in its sixth year, Mission:McDuffie is a county-wide project in which young people from local churches do volunteer work for homeowners in need. David Lambert, the Thomson First Baptist Minister of Students who started and organizes the project, said there are about 120 volunteers working on 15 houses. The type of work varies according to the homeowners' needs, but usually consists of painting, repairing, cleaning and yard work.
When he was planning this year's projects, the Rev. Lambert said he anticipated more work from damage left by the tornado that hit McDuffie and Warren Counties in March. As it turned out, only two of the projects were tornado related, and both involved replacing the roof. The Rev. Lambert said most of this year's projects dealt with replacing rotten wood on houses, building wheelchair ramps and hauling away debris.
"So it's a little different this year," he said, adding that in the past, the majority of the projects are painting.
The homeowners applied for the work at various local social service organizations. Homeowner Dorothy Taylor said she turned in her application too late last year and had to wait to get the rotten wood replaced on the gable ends of her house.
"I made sure I got there in time this year," the Mimosa Street resident said. "It's the best thing that could've ever happened. ...I'm happy with what they are doing."
Ms. Taylor said the rotten wood had given squirrels access to her attic where they had taken up residence, and she didn't like hearing them run across her ceiling.
James Bridges, a retired cabinet maker who was volunteering his services with Mission:McDuffie, confirmed Ms. Taylor's concerns. Mr. Bridges said he found skeletons of two or three squirrels when he removed the old gables. Mr. Bridges was also replacing rotten wood that framed Ms. Taylor's living room window.
"It wasn't built right the first time so it was retaining water," Mr. Bridges said. "But we are going to fix it right so that won't be a problem any more."
This was Mr. Bridges' first time to volunteer with the mission, and he said he was impressed with the work done by the teens and the respect they showed the homeowners.
"The best part of the whole project is seeing (the homeowners') faces. ...They usually aren't here while we are working, but the smile on their face when they come back home is worth it all," said Steve Holbert, a 17-year-old who has been participating in the mission for three years.
The teens meet at the Warehouse at First Baptist Church each morning to receive their assignments and work from 7:30 a.m. until noon. In the evenings, they congregate at the First United Methodist Church for a worship rally with Potter's Mark leading the music and Mark Hopkins as guest speaker. This year's theme is "Empathy, not Apathy."
Although they are working and worshiping, the teens mix in fun. Some face painting accompanied the painting of Ms. Taylor's house.
"Oh yes, paint flies in the wind. So we ended up having paint fights," Caitlin Burnside, 15, said with a laugh.