September 1, 2015

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SOS transforms homes, lives

Published 1:00 am Sunday, June 22, 2014

They came; they served; they transformed lives.

The annual weeklong Service Over Self project came to a close Friday as the throngs of teen volunteers packed up and went home after hundreds of hours painting, sawing, hammering and tackling any repair project that came their way.

The physical changes to the homes are obvious, but the emotional changes for the homeowners run much deeper.

Volunteers with the Service Over Self program work on a home on Mop Lane Tuesday
Volunteers with the Service Over Self program work on a home on Mop Lane Tuesday

Claudine Atlas sat in a chair outside her home on Second North Street all week watching the teens and adult volunteers replacing rotten boards and painting.

“I’m living in a mansion now,” she said of the work. “I couldn’t ask for anything more beautiful.”

Maybelle Stevens’ home on Court Street perhaps got the biggest makeover. Volunteers spent the week repairing her roof, cutting back her overgrown yard and myriad other tasks.

“I didn’t have any other way. My house was raining on me. It was just gushing right in. “My house was just falling down, but then God almighty got tired of it and said ‘I’m going to send you a helper,” she said.

Service Over Self volunteer Ryan VanDenAkker, center, helps build new steps for a home on East Main Street Wednesday.
Service Over Self volunteer Ryan VanDenAkker, center, helps build new steps for a home on East Main Street Wednesday.

The helpers were mostly 65 teens that gave up a week of summer vacation to put the community’s needs before their own.

“Every year I hear from some parents that they can’t believe their kid is doing what they’re doing,” SOS volunteer and Bob Moss said during a ceremony Thursday night for volunteers, their parents, and homeowners.

Sometimes the homeowners can’t believe it either.

“I’m proud to see these youngsters. You don’t see that every day,” said Robert Hunt, whose home on Gibson Road received minor repairs on Monday.

Service Over Self volunteers paint the front steps of a home on Court Street Wednesday.
Service Over Self volunteers paint the front steps of a home on Court Street Wednesday.

The transformation in the volunteers is obvious by the number of people who return year after year for the week of service.

“They started me out as a paint scraper, and now I guide a little more,” said Nick Harmon, a seventh-year volunteer who was helping oversee renovations at a home on Mop Lane behind Cooper Lighting.

Before the volunteers arrived, the Mop Lane home had major electrical problems, a sewage leak and was badly in need of exterior repairs.

“It’s amazing to see what the house starts as and what if finishes as,” said Katie Schroeder, a 17-year-old volunteer.

Most of the volunteers begin as paint scrapers and learn how to do a variety of repair tasks over their years of service.

“It’s nice to help out people and it gives you some life experiences,” said Jonathan Jackson, a 15-year-old volunteer.

Work was complete on nine homes this week, said Moss, who helps organize the constructions projects.

“Of those nine we’re either complete or 99 percent complete,” Moss said.

An AmeriCorps team will work on at least two sites this week, bringing the total to at least 11.