Maria Woolard of Washington, N.C., Rachel Davis of Annapolis, Md., and Alysha Rahmer of Federal Way, Wash., work Friday afternoon on Janice Patrick's home in Kenai. They were among 450 World Changers volunteers on the central peninsula last week.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
When Maria Woolard volunteered with World Changers for the first time, she knew how to paint a little, but that’s it. Now in her third year, she knelt down outside Janice Patrick’s Kenai home Thursday holding a board in place while a friend pounded a nail in.
“I really like hammering and learning the Skilsaw,” Woolard said. “We had to dig trenches so the boards would fit, it went between three and six inches.”
Woolard came to Nikiski from Washington, N.C., as one of the hundreds of World Changers that descended on the Kenai Peninsula last week. She and 11 other volunteers measured boards and hammered them together for Patrick’s new wheelchair ramp.
“I’m really amazed,” Patrick said. “They work really well together.”
Patrick was injured in a car accident a few years ago, she said, and broke all the bones on the left side of her body. Although Patrick is able to get around some now, her left knee goes out and she said it’ll be a matter of time before she ends up in a wheelchair.
“I’ve been fighting it about two and a half to three years now,” she said. “I’m buying a house through Rural Development and got a hold of World Changers and let them know I needed this procedure taken care of for health reasons.”
A total of 600 teenagers paid a $400 registration fee plus airfare in order to build houses, do yard work, sleep on church or school floors and eat cafeteria food. Emily Bloxdorf, a staff member with World Changers, said the first installment of teenagers a group of 450 from churches all over the country worked on a total of 37 projects last week.
“They’re doing this just because they want to,” Bloxdorf said, adding that the projects are decided upon months in advance and several organizations within the community provide the building materials.
Michelle Hoffman, area director for Rural Development’s Kenai office, said 100 volunteers are helping eight families get one step closer to owning their own homes. As part of an agreement with Rural Development, low income families can have the opportunity to finance a new home if they put in what’s known as “sweat equity” by building it, or getting volunteers to build it, themselves.
“As the price of houses is going up, low income people can’t afford to buy a house at the cost they are now,” Hoffman said. “This allows them and their families to have a nice house that’s way under the appraised value. The cost to build is way less than it’s worth.”
Having worked with World Changers for the past several years, Hoffman said, she’s seen them do everything from laying out roof shingles to building walls to pouring foundations.
“They just work together out of the goodness of their own hearts,” she said. “If we can get the free labor (from) the World Changers, it allows us to do more with the little bit of money we can provide.”
In Elias Campbell’s two years as a World Changer, he’s installed roofing and insulation and built porches, decks and ramps.
“It’s not like an every day job,” he said. “(We) come up here and don’t know exactly what we’re doing.”
Although he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing or where he’s going, Elias, from Seattle, is excited about getting the work done.
“We’re sent up here, we bring hammers and nails and we just do it,” he said. “(A) brand new free porch will help them with mobility and hopefully connect them with God.”
Bloxdorf, who started out as a volunteer seven years ago from Easley, S.C., said her first project was painting a house in Charleston.
“The fulfillment I got being able to combine a wide scope of construction opened so many opportunities to share the love of Christ,” she said.
Now that Woolard is in her third year, she’s able to show her new counterparts how to paint and scrape. She said she always liked going to World Changers and plans to do so again next year.
“We have different skills and we all come together to make it happen,” she said.
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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