Mission Serve returns to LaGrange to help restore a dozen homes in need

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

If you see teens throughout the city this week who appear to have taken over work sites, don’t be alarmed. The kids are just volunteers helping to repair local homes through Mission Serve.

Construction in LaGrange isn’t an infrequent sight these days but home renovations —especially in poorer neighborhoods— are a welcome and less common occurrence.

About 150 volunteers from across the U.S. have returned to LaGrange with the mission of serving God, their churches and the community by giving their time and effort to restore the homes of those in need.

The volunteers, primarily students up to college-aged, along with adult volunteers, descended on LaGrange for the week through Mission Serve, a national organization that partners with local city governments to help improve dilapidated housing by bringing together professional and student volunteers to provide free labor for homeowners.

LaGrange first hosted the organization last year but the nonprofit has a long history locally helping rehab more than 100 homes over the last two decades while part of a group then known as World Changers.

The way the program works is municipalities provide funding for construction materials, paint, lumber, and roofing supplies so that the volunteers can rehab the houses at no cost to low-income homeowners.

The homes are selected with the help of local nonprofits on a need basis, with the primary restrictions being that the work can be done in five days and they are resident-owned, so no renters. Last year the City of LaGrange provided $75,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help rehab nine homes. This year the group is doing renovations on 12 homes using similar funding.

The local faith community also supports the volunteer work crews along the way, providing meals and a place to sleep throughout the week.

The effort is also helped by Habitat for Humanity, who work as a pass-through for the funding accepting the grant funds from the city and allowing Mission Serve to purchase materials using their network of discounts.

Many of the volunteers have been giving their time with Mission Serve each summer for years.

Adult team leader Amy Southwell has been doing so for the last four years.

“I’ve been blessed so much in my life that I want to give back, Southwell said. “I just want to be the hands and feet of Jesus right here.”

Gayle Truitt, who leads a Mission Serve group here locally from Fountain Church, said the volunteers get as much out of the program as those receiving no-cost repairs to their homes.

“It means a ton because you get to talk to people. You get to see to see lives changed,” Truitt said.

Truitt said the volunteer work also helps her relationship with the youth in the church.

“I’ve known some of these kids since they were born, but it just builds a different relationship, even within your youth, within your church and other youth,” Truitt said. “I’ve got kids that I did projects with five or 10 years ago that I still keep in touch with.”

“It shows the community that Jesus is building and just makes it visible,” she said.

Lots of local churches are involved with the weeklong endeavor, whether by sending volunteers, feeding them or both. The volunteers (students and adults) are staying through Saturday morning at Western Heights Baptist Church.