School may be out for the summer, but Lookout Valley Middle/High School is full of teenagers from across the country this week — at least at night when the middle and high school students aren't out working during the day on repairing homes across Chattanooga.
More than 300 youth from 14 states are in Chattanooga this week to help make home repairs for low-income residents of 33 homes as part of a Group Missions trip. A similar trip is planned in early July by more than 400 volunteers who will come to Chattanooga through the World Changers mission program to repair and repaint other houses in low-income neighborhoods.
Chattanooga City Councilman Chip Henderson helped bring this week's mission trip to his hometown through his own "Week of Hope" mission trips through Temple Baptist Church.
"Through my work in helping take kids from our church to other cities, I became aware of this home repair mission effort and I knew that we have a lot of homes here in Chattanooga that could use that assistance," Henderson said. "By bringing in these volunteers, we can help stretch our city resources and help a lot of low-income persons at the same time we're providing a great opportunity for these kids to learn about other people and what they can do working as a team."
Every morning, the mission trip begins in the school auditorium with a time of reflection, focus and motivation among the student participants, who range from 12- to 18-years old. The students are then teamed up with others from different cities to work as a team on painting houses, fixing roofs and making other minor repairs on homes in low-income areas across the city.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, who welcomed the Group Mission volunteers Monday morning, thanked the participants for what they will help accomplish this week.
The city has helped identify those needing assistance from applications received through the Minor Home Repair Program, but the students doing the repairs raised their own money for the trip to Chattanooga ($459 per person) and the materials and equipment are funded by donations from First Tennessee Bank's foundation and Temple Baptist Church.
Last year, the city received 229 applications and was able to assist more than 100 homeowners with minor repairs through the work on two nonprofit groups — Group Missions and World Changers.
"We are a great city of creators, but even with our successes, we know we have people in need and we know our neighborhoods are stronger when we address these problems," Berke said. "These volunteers will make a difference to the homes that they visit, but that spreads across a neighborhood. When you have code violations, it's not just a problem for that homeowner; it's a problem for everyone on that street."
Jay Knisley is one of the adult supervisors making his third Group Missions trip this week who first began making the trips along with his own children and has continued after seeing the value of the work for both the participants and the recipients.
"It gives kids a real chance to see other people who may not have had the opportunities and privileges they have had, and over the course of a week, the students get to see what they are capable of doing and how God can work in their lives," Knisley said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.