Inch by inch, Pierce Hesser scraped paint off the old window frames of a small, one-story home on Kaufman Drive.
“We came to serve,” said Pierce, 15, as crews around him knocked out rotting siding and prepped for painting. “Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve.”
Pierce is a World Changers volunteer, part of a group of Southern Baptist teens who have volunteered to spend a week of their summer demonstrating God’s love through acts of service.
They have four days to transform 10 homes in Augusta. Most are in the Richmond Hill area, with half on or around Rhodes Drive.
Fleming Baptist Church plays host to the group of 159 teens from eight churches in five states: Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
Funding for the repairs comes from the city, which buys the supplies to revitalize substandard homes. The Augusta Housing and Development Association handles the applications. World Changers brings the labor.
“It really makes a difference to us, and it really makes a difference to the community,” City Administrator Fred Russell said to the group before crews left for their work sites Tuesday, the first day of the project.
This is World Changers’ 14th year in Augusta. In that time, it has painted, built wheelchair ramps and roofed countless homes, said Alyse Malavasi, a World Changers missions and communications specialist.
“The reason the kids are here is to share the love of Christ, not only through their words, but their actions,” Malavasi said. “There are a couple youth groups that return to Augusta every summer. Their churches are partnering with this city.”
Fourteen members of Pierce’s Port Charlotte, Fla., youth group drove 10 hours in a bus to get to Augusta on Monday.
It was his first year volunteering with World Changers. Diva Franco, also of Port Charlotte, returned for her second mission after serving in Brunswick, Ga., last summer.
“I just loved it,” the 18-year-old said. “Helping people, getting to know them as you work on the house. Last year, we got to know them really well. We had dinner with them. It’s about building those relationships.”
By the end of the week, both the houses and the kids are changed for the better, said Billie Maples, a longtime World Changers volunteer from North Trenholm Baptist Church in Columbia.
“It’s not painting and doing all this. It’s changing lives,” said Maples, 81. “We get them away from Mommy and Daddy. They don’t go back the same. Some of these small churches have to work all year just to make money to come here. I love it. I’ve seen kids grow and have children and their children have children. It’s very rewarding.”