By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 12, 2019
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- While some students are enjoying time off this summer, a group of teens from Orlando are hoping to make a difference.
More than one dozen high school students from Orlando are in Valdosta giving back to local non-profits, trading in a week of sun for a week of service.
"I'm hoping to just have a feeling that I did something important. I'm hoping to grow my faith because it's a church trip, and I just want to have a fun time," said incoming freshman Elliot Rose. "I think it's a lot of fun, I really like doing work and helping people who need it."
Rose is one of the students from Saint Stephen Lutheran Church, located near Orlando, that has traveled to Valdosta to help the community.
Trip organizers said a group of students from the church travel to a new community around the south every summer, this year choosing Valdosta.
"I think it shows them that hard work is important, and making a difference, you can make a difference anywhere," said Minister for Youth Patrick Menand.
On Wednesday the group was helping restore what will soon be the Living Bridges Community Center.
Living Bridges Ministry helps serve the Valdosta community, while helping to fight poverty through ministry, counseling and support programs.
The organization has been helping the community for five years, but this is the first time it has a place of its own, allowing to move almost all programs under one roof.
Founder Darcy Gunter said having one location for all indoor services will enhance the difference they can make in the community.
"A large barrier for them is transportation. If you have to get a ride to one part of town to take our class, and a ride to a different part of town to get the needs met from our clothes closet, and another part of town to go to the garden, things like it, it's difficult," Gunter said.
One of the programs offered at Living Bridges is a "Transformation out of Poverty" program, which teaches individuals about things like resume building, interview skills and budgeting. Gunter said this program is very successful, with nearly 90 percent of clients finding jobs or continuing their education. But sometimes that work isn't done when they graduate the program.
"What we found is they still need a level of accountability, there are other goals that need to be set, other things that still need to be taught," Gunter said.
This new facility will allow them to start new programs, like 'Transforming Continues,' to keep serving those who need it.
Organizers are hoping to open the clothing closet at the new facility by the first of July, with other programs ready to begin by this fall.
Living Bridges is still in need of volunteers and donations to continue restoring the new facility.