CALUMET CITY | Jonathan Allen, of Alabama, and some 165 other teenagers are hoping their involvement this week in a religious project enables them to help spread God’s word by providing labor to less fortunate people in need of housing repairs.
“I want to share God’s word with people, while also being able to help them have a better place to live,” he said.
Allen is part of a group of 63 Alabama-based teenagers who are part of the overall group affiliated with the World Changers, which is coordinating 90 projects in 85 cities across the United States. These particular 166 young people are based at Thornton Fractional North High School for the week, while doing labor at eight projects throughout the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana.
In all, some 16,000 students will get a chance to work this summer through World Changers projects.
This particular group arrived Monday at T.F. North, 755 Pulaski Road, and was scheduled to work at area projects from Tuesday through Friday.
Allen and his friend, Dylan Honea, said they have been on two prior World Changers projects in the suburbs of Dallas and have had the chance to do work such as roof repair and house painting, which they expect to do again this week.
The projects the group will work on this week include helping with a pair of Habitat for Humanity houses in Chicago Heights, and at the ARC of Northwest Indiana in Gary.
World Changers spokeswoman Micah Smith said the group’s purpose is to help make local communities across the country better places to be.
“They will go into the city and try to fix things up,” Smith said.
The local initiative is a partnership with the Northwest Indiana and Chicago Metropolitan Baptist associations.
Smith said all of the young people are volunteers who paid a $250 fee to be included in the project. Andrea McClendan, an adult who accompanied the Alabama group as a chaperon, said her church helped come up with the money for its young volunteers through fundraisers.
All the young people have completed a six-session study meant to prepare them for the kinds of tasks they will be performing this week.
Theressa Hall, another adult chaperon, said she thinks the young people benefit the most from the fact that their cellular telephones and other electronic devices are taken away from them for the week.
“Our young people may be tech-savvy, but sometimes I think that’s at the expense of everything else in life,” Hall said. “We want this week to teach them that life is not all about them, it’s about others, too.”
Janetta Bozarch — who in past years has been with World Changers groups in Augusta, Ga., Tulsa, Okla., and Dallas — said the lesson she always learns from the experience is how fortunate she has been in her life.
“It makes me appreciate what I have, that I have parents who love me and give me a home,” she said. “Not everybody can say that.”