More than 200 youth volunteers from churches in nine states around the country are in the local community this week, participating in the inaugural Pensacola Workcamp. The project is providing free critical home upgrades for over 30 local elderly, handicapped, and lower-income residents.
“The Workcamp is where we bring in workers to work on homes that we’ve identified in the city that are in need of repair, carpentry or painting,” says Warren Jerrems, Site Supervisor for local sponsor GRACE (Giving Restoring And Christian Engagement) of Pensacola, which is an outreach ministry of Christ Episcopal Church in conjunction with other local churches.
The Pensacola Workcamp is part of the national Group Cares program, which is a non-profit, interdenominational Christian volunteer home improvement organization headquartered in Loveland, Colorado. In the summer of 2014, an anticipated 25,000 young people and adults will participate in 48 Workcamps in communities across the United States and Canada.
The 225 teenage volunteers taking part in the Pensacola Workcamp will be housed at Washington High School for the week. The local contingent from Christ Church also will be staying at the school.
Each work team will be comprised of five high school students from different communities and denominations, and an adult. “They get mixed up and they get put into a work group where the other five people that they’re working with are people they’ve never met before. So, it’s a situation where you’re not only trying to figure out how to do the work on the house, but how to build the relationships with the different people you’re working with for the week,” Jerrems said.
According to Jerrems, Christ Church pursued becoming a local sponsor after years of sending their own group to various Workcamps across the country. “We’ve been trying for some time to try to get that organization to come and work in Pensacola, so we not only can reduce travel costs to the church, but also our city gets the benefit of having the work done on 30 or 35 homes.”
As a local sponsor, there has been a long list of responsibilities. The duties have including securing housing for the volunteers, raising the money to pay for the material and costs associated with getting the projects done and coordinating with local vendor Lowes Home Improvement, which is delivering equipment and materials to each site. As Site Supervisor, Jerrems says actually identifying each home site has been the most time consuming. They worked with the City of Pensacola Housing Office to identify the homes to be worked on; then he went door-to-door to talk with eligible residents.
The cost of paying for the materials is an estimated $25,000, with an economic impact of well over $100,000, possibly as much as $250,000.
Jerrems says it’s a worthwhile endeavor and he wishes they could do more, “In having gone around and seeing the neighborhoods in our city and met with a lot of homeowners, we could do 500 homes in this town and barely scratch the surface of what needs to be done as far as working with some of these homes.”