Special thanks to the MDJ for this story!
MARIETTA – While driving around the city this week, don’t be alarmed at the sight of dozens of teenagers perched on roofs, wielding hammers and disturbing the peace.
These young people have forgone typical summer plans of video games, poolside tanning and road trips in favor of something far more rewarding.
They’ve volunteered their time and resources with World Changers, which is sponsored by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
World Changer’s mission is “to provide Christian youth and adults with opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others,” the organization’s Web site states.
“That’s what we’re doing here,” said Cassie Marie Bundy, a technical project specialist for World Changers. “We’re meeting people’s physical needs, meeting them where they are and just loving on them, serving them – if you look in the Bible, Jesus always met people’s physical needs before he would tell them who he was.”
World Changers began in Tennessee in 1990 with just 135 volunteers. Since, the organization has lived up to its name, rapidly expanding its outreach mission to 86 cities in the United States and 12 foreign countries.
Clyde Kraemer, construction coordinator for Cobb, said that more than 300 volunteers have teamed up in the county. Most hail from the Southeast, but some are from as far away as Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. This is the first time the program has orchestrated a project in Cobb.
“We’re very thrilled to have a program here in Marietta,” project coordinator Gordon Davidson said. Volunteers, who camp out at Marietta Sixth Grade Academy for the weeklong outreach program, will repair 19 houses and one church in Marietta.
Kraemer said 13 houses are being re-roofed. The rest of the homes will be repainted, have steps or handicap ramps built, and windows replaced. According to Davidson, 90 percent of those homes belong to elderly people, low-income families, or handicapped individuals.
Because the program is volunteer-based, most cash for repairs comes from government grants, Kraemer said. A Cobb Community Development Block Grant funds repairs in the county. Volunteers pay approximately $250 to participate, which covers the cost of food and lodging.
John Haeger, Missions and Ministries Development Director at Noonday Baptist Church, said 13 different churches are represented in the project. The program is not restricted to Baptists, Kraemer said, and is open to all Christian youths.
Caroline Davidson, age 16, of Winterhaven, Fla., took a short break Monday afternoon from ripping shingles off a house on Roosevelt Circle to describe the mission.
“It’s awesome. I’m in the company of some really cool people, spiritually, and they’re just really fun to be with,” she said.
When asked about doing manual labor in the muggy Georgia heat, she laughed and said, “It’s hard, but it’s fun, you know?”
She looked up at the disarrayed roof and acknowledged with a grin, “I’m definitely a rookie, but I’ve had some people teaching me, so it’s been cool.”
Brother-sister duo T.J. and Kari Martin, from Mount Airy, N.C., agreed. “We’re definitely getting there,” 17-year-old T.J. Martin said of his group’s progress on re-roofing another house on Roosevelt Circle. “Really, everyone we’re working with is great. And God is good.”
“You can do anything he wants you to,” added Kari Martin, 15, pointing to the roof where the rest of her crew was hard at work. “All your problems are gone when you’re up there.”
Ruby Grogan, the owner of one of the homes receiving a new roof, enjoyed watching volunteers work on Monday, even venturing outside to join them in the heat.
Ms. Grogan, 80, has lived in Marietta all her life.
A widow whose children have grown up and moved away, she had resigned herself to the dangerous leaks in her house; a new roof was out of the question.
“I really appreciate all they’re doing, because I don’t have the money to get this done,” she said.
Ms. Grogan said there was so much water in her house’s structure, she was afraid to even use her fan in the summertime for fear of an electrical short.
Help arrived unexpectedly one day as if sent from above.
“I was just sitting here one day and this man and this lady came up and said ‘We want to help you,’” Ms. Grogan said. “I really, really appreciate it.”