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A fresh coat of paint.
All for no cost to homeowners.
That is what Kentucky Changers, an organization sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention that uses seventh through 12th graders to refurbish exteriors of homes, is offering Grant County residents.
“We took a group of kids from church to Frankfort in 1997,” said Nancy Howe, who has participated in the program for 12 years with the Knoxville Baptist Church. “Since then, our kids have never wanted to do anything but Kentucky Changers. We’ve taken our youth every year.”
“I think for a lot of the kids you really don’t realize how much of a blessing it is to give of yourself,” she said. “You don’t realize how well off you are. It’s just the opportunity to realize that God has blessed you and given you the opportunity to be his hands and feet. It’s just addictive. It’s not just a do good organization, We’re out to show our love.”
Modeled after the North American Mission Board’s World Changers program, Kentucky Changers began in 1994 with one project in Hopkinsville. Less than 80 participants were involved in fewer than 10 projects during the first summer.
In 2008, Kentucky Changers’ 15th season, 83 projects were completed by more than 1,000 participants from 54 churches across Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Virginia.
Jaclyn Porter, a sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University and a 2007 Williamstown High School graduate, has participated the past five years through Knoxville Baptist.
“It’s very rewarding,” she said. “You show up and you have no idea what kind of house you’re going to be working on and what kind of situation you’re going to be in. This past year we worked with a child who couldn’t really speak. Toward the end of the week, he actually talked for the first time. It makes you feel so good that you can come there, do God’s work and make such a huge impact on a family.”
For the first time, the project will come to Grant County from July 4-11 with support from the Crittenden Baptist Association.
Homeowners interested in having their homes worked on must apply by Dec. 20.
Applications are available at the Crittenden Baptist Association, local drug stores, Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, local churches, Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link’s office in the courthouse, school family resource centers and the senior citizens’ center.
Once a homeowner has applied, Wayne Browning, local construction coordinator, will visit the homes to determine if the job is something the youth can do in a week. He will notify homeowners in the spring.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Browning, a longtime Kentucky Changers participant. “All the time I’ve been involved with it, I’ve been thinking that we travel all around doing jobs when there’s jobs that need to be done right here at home. It’s really going to be a pleasure to work close to home.”
Browning said he joined because he wanted to prove that youth can do more than what most people give them credit for.
“They surprise you every year,” he said. “You run up on jobs that you think they can’t handle and they do it. With proper leadership, we just tell them what needs to be done and we stand back and let them do it. They amaze you.”
Area youth also can sign up to help Answer the Call, the program’s 2009 theme.
The cost to participate for youth is $195 before or postmarked by Jan. 28 and $220 after.
Those who sign up also can choose to help out in other Changers’ project during the 2009 summer in Princeton, Louisville and Frankfort.
“We’ve been encouraging church groups to pick one of the other places if they’ve never been before,” Howe said. “They can’t have the same experience here, I don’t think, that they can have somewhere else.”
Howe said an average project has 300 participants working at about 25 sites in the community.
Participants who work on job sites in Grant County will be housed at a local school, likely Grant County High School.
“When we made this proposal and were debating which school to go to, (the Grant County Board of Education’s) response was that they really didn’t care what school,” Howe said. “They just wanted to make sure they came. It was definitely a roll out the welcome mat situation.”
Youth participants will arrive on a Saturday to get settled in before being assigned to a crew Sunday morning that will visit their host church for lunch and then visit their job site and meet the homeowner.
Monday through Friday crews will repair their assigned home and each evening crew members will be involved in a worship service.
There will be a community worship Friday evening followed by a final worship service Saturday morning.
“The first activity is that we build a planter,” Howe said. “That just gives the crew chief on the job the opportunity to see who knows how to operate a saw, who the natural leader is and who needs to be encouraged. It’s your first team building exercise.”
During her time with Kentucky Changers, Howe said she has really gotten to know the homeowners throughout the week of work.
Whether it is watching a youth help a recovering alcoholic turn to the Lord or seeing a mother dealing 24 hours a day, seven days a week with her autistic son, she said the people are the reason she keeps going back.
“One year, there was this lady when we got there who was running out of her house in Frankfort with her hands up in the air saying, ‘Praise God. I have prayed and prayed that someone would help me with my home,” she said.
“I’ve got year after year of experiences that are life changing as much for us,” Howe said. “I have never ever given more than I got. I honestly don’t think I have ever been a part of anything that has been so great.”
Individuals, churches or organizations wishing to help fund a Kentucky Changers project can contact Rodney Howe at 824-5079 or Bro. Gregg Nimmo at 824-7755.
For more information, go to www.kybaptist.org/kychangers.