A swapping of blessings took place around the county last week during the annual Mission:McDuffie - a project that pairs church youth willing to paint, repair, clean up and do yard work with homeowners in the county who need just such work done.
First Baptist Youth Minister David Lambert said 140 young people from area churches worked Monday through Thursday on 17 projects. Each evening, the teens gathered at the church for worship and to report how their day had gone. Homeowners who had work done were invited to the final service to enjoy a pizza dinner with the teenagers and thank them for their work.
"I can't express it like I would like to," said Marie Walker, one of the homeowners who received work. "Talk about a makeover, well they did a makeover and a facelift all at one time. They all worked together. The children were so beautiful."
Ms. Walker said "the children" spray washed the siding on her house, then painted it and the under pinning. She said she inherited the Pine Street house from her mother, who lived in it until she passed away at the age of 108.
"I told them I'd like to keep it similar to how it was, and they did a good job," she said. "It needed paint so bad that it soaked up lots of paint and they just kept putting on some more."
But Ms. Walker wasn't the only one overflowing with gratitude.
"She was such a blessing to us all week," said Debbie Long, the adult volunteer who supervised the teens working at Ms. Walker's house. "She sent her grandson out to paint with us, and then he came to the worship services in the evening with us all week, too."
Ms. Walker's 12-year-old grandson, Malcolm, said he liked working with the other young people because he knew some of them from school. Malcolm said he had never worked like that before, painting and re-roofing a house, "and I was tired when it came down to the last couple of days."
"We had kids learn how to hammer, learn how to paint, how to take measurements and how to operate saws. It was so educational for them. Some of them did harder work than they'd ever worked before. And they learned things they'd never done before," the Rev. Lambert said. "These are great experiences for the students. They discover that working together, they can accomplish just about anything."
And they accomplished everything. In four mornings, the young people tore off one old roof and replaced it, built three wheelchair ramps, one set of steps and one 8'x12' deck with a wheelchair ramp. They also painted, cleaned the yards and hauled off trash from all the projects. During the final worship service Thursday evening, David Harbeson, the youth and music pastor at Dearing Baptist Church, totaled the working hours of all the young people together to be 2,240 hours. If each volunteer had been paid $6 an hour, the Rev. Harbeson figured their donation totaled $13,440.
And that amount is actually higher. Each young person had to pay $20 to help offset costs to participate in the project. All year long, Rev. Harbeson goes to supply stores and purchases mis-tinted paint at a reduced rate. Just before Mission:McDuffie begins, Rev. Harbeson, Rev. Lambert and Rev. Matt Funk, who is the youth minister at Thomson First United Methodist Church, all get together for a "paint mixing party." Rev. Lambert said they "pour all the creams together, and pour all the browns together, all the blues together," and so on to make large quantities of a single color of paint. They then make sample swatches of each exclusive "customized" color, and the homeowners select which color they prefer for their house. As is the predictable case with teens, not all of the paint makes it on the house.
"It was pretty fun," said Will Norman, 13. "Me and Malcolm painted ourselves some green, and some blue, and some an oatmeal color. ... He was my favorite person to work with. ... I didn't know I would be at Malcolm's house until he came out that first day."
In his prayer during the worship service Thursday evening, the Rev. Funk prayed "that the people will be able to tell others who did the work on their house. And more importantly, not just who - but why."
And that's just what Ms. Walker plans on doing. She said she is going to tell everybody she knows about the young people who came to her house, and encourage more people to get involved next year.
"Talk about moving from an old house into a new house, well that's what it was like," she said. "It makes a whole lot of difference in the community."