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Baptist builders saving homes

Impact Virginia is making a difference this week by fixing homes in Middlesex and Mathews counties. Above, Jacob Volentic (right) of Slovakia and Josh Cogdell of Stanardsville, pound a new support beam into place under the guidance of crew chief Jim Burns. In the back is Steve Crawford of Ruckersville. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

“It’s amazing what you can do with a group of young people when they’re eager to help,” said Lonnie Hines, a crew chief with “Impact Virginia,” which is in Middlesex County this week fixing up dilapidated houses for those who cannot afford the work.

About 90 “Impact Virginia” volunteers are working in Middlesex and Mathews counties as a one-week construction mission of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

The teenage workers and adults are spread over five houses. One house was eaten up by termites, which were attracted to moisture from a second story air conditioner that leaked water into a wall.

Hands Across Middlesex had been trying to figure how to fix this home for two years, said Hands member Penny Lawson of Locust Hill. “The estimates were astronomical,” said Lawson.

When the homeowner learned that Impact Virginia would fix her home, she told Lawson, “This is the biggest blessing in my life. I’d have to leave my home if I didn’t get help.”

Despite temperatures in the 90s, the volunteers cheerfully went about their work on Monday. Bekah Liberatore of Greene County near Charlottesville pulled up dozens of carpet tacks in a water damaged room. “My arms got sore, but I didn’t care,” said the 14-year-old. “I just like to help people.”

Work is rewarding

Hines, who has volunteered since 1995, said he’s noticed that some volunteer teens come back year after year. He recalled two sisters who worked for three years on the Eastern Shore brought their father to a job site. Hines said their father was curious. “He said, ‘I had to come see what made my daughters so happy.’ ”

That father is now a crew chief for Impact Virginia.

Stephanie Cooke is in her second year with Impact Virginia. “It’s fun. I meet new people and it makes me feel good that I help other people in need,” said the 16-year-old from Prospect, which is near Farmville. “I like power tools.”

Devon Schrader, 13, said, “Most people can’t afford to have this work done. So when we come here, it makes a big difference.”

Jacob Volentic, 16 of Slovakia, has volunteered during his visit to the U.S. “It’s good,” he said. “I like doing stuff like this.”

Another crew chief, Jim Burns of Poroporone Baptist Church in Shacklefords in King and Queen County, said, “The Lord blessed me with some skills and I’m just sharing them. This is what I do for fun. You know what they say, ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.’ ”

Burns’ sons, Jonathan, 13, and Jimmy Jr., 15, also are working with Impact Virginia.

Each teen volunteer with Impact Virginia had to earn $250 to participate in the one-week program. The money could not be given to them. They also had to complete four Bible study courses.

Perhaps the hardest part for many teens is getting up at 5:30 a.m. so they can be at the job site by 8 a.m. Local Baptist churches bring lunch to the crews, who are sleeping on the floor at Mathews Baptist Church.

They take showers in the Virginia Baptist Disaster Relief Trailer, where breakfast and dinner are prepared.

This summer Impact Virginia volunteers have worked in both Wise and Bluefield counties. Another crew will be on the Eastern Shore next week.

Hines, 77, who has had one hip replaced, and his wife Jean will be with them. “I’ll keep doing this as long as the Lord keeps giving me the strength and energy,” he said.

posted 07.15.2009

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