As people get ready to go on vacation for the summer, one group of kids decided to trade in some fun in the sun for a hammer and hard work.
Gadsden County suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in Florida with Gretna being the most impoverished city in the Sunshine State.
Homeowner Sheila McBride said, "I've been here for three years and I'm a hard working person. I was working in Tallahassee, 20, 30 hours a week, but with gas prices going up, I can't make it back and forth; there just aren't enough jobs here."
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 36 percent of Gretna families earn less than $15,000 a year, which doesn't leave much for upkeep of the many dilapidated homes in the county.
In 1993, one group decided to step in and help change all that.
Jon Becknell, the executive director for Love at Work, said, "We make repairs to roofs, wheelchair ramps, siding, repaint houses, anything we can do, it’s all free of cost to the homeowner."
All this hard work is mostly done by a group called Love at Work, youth missions made up of middle and high school students.
Love at Work was started at Killearn United Methodist Church, designed to fix housing for Gadsden County, but now has grown into an organization changing lives.
“You can come back later and see the person whose house you worked on and they'll come give you a big hug, and it changes the people who live here," said Carson Jones, a volunteer for Love at Work.
Some of the members are veterans of this work, making it a part of their summer every year, taking with them lessons for a lifetime.
Adrea Ross added, "It’s like 45 minutes away and it’s a different life, so different here than my home and my neighborhood, my house, just to be blessed for what you have and to be thankful."
This year Love at Work has close to 90 volunteers for a duration of four weeks. Volunteers sign up through their church youth group, then they each raise $300 which covers food, lodging, and materials for work projects, all to help change the lives of residents in Gadsden County.
McBride said, "I just can't put it into words. Last year they did my roof, and said they were going to come back and do the siding, and I feel so blessed to have them here working on my home."
If you would like more information on how to get involved in Love at Work youth missions, call 850-508-1647.
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