(This article was published Saturday, July 7, in the Macon Telegraph.)
By JENNIFER BURK
With paintbrushes in hand, more than 40 teens surrounded a small, one-story house on Holt Avenue this week, working to bring the gray concrete siding and maroon trim back to tip-top condition.It was their last day to finish the house, part of the teens' mission work in Macon, and they were determined not to leave the community hanging.
"We get a sense of acceptance walking up and down the streets," said Colin Clark, a 17-year-old from Tampa, Fla., who was painting the house. "You can tell they really want us here."
The teens came to Macon from across the nation as a part of Passport Youth Camp, a Christian summer camp that each week brings 250 to 300 students in sixth through 12th grades to various cities to complete mission work, said MegAnn Leigh, director of the camp. This is the first year the camp, which arrived in the city June 1, has been in Macon.
Work on the Holt Avenue house was completed through a partnership with Rebuilding Together Macon, which repairs homes for the elderly and disabled.
Campers completed at least 12 houses for the organization, said Debra Rollins, executive director of Rebuilding Together Macon.
"Our homeowners were very pleased and excited," Rollins said.
Campers divided into groups and worked on 10 different projects in the city. Other projects included working with the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank, planting a garden in the Pleasant Hill community and working with children at the Booker T. Washington Community Center.
Mercer University, which took the lead in inviting the camp to Macon, hosted the campers, providing some meals, housing and a place to worship. Campers also participated in Bible studies and worship services at camp.
Hosting the camp is twofold, said Don Mattingly, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives at Mercer.
"It will help us in recruiting, and it also will continue to get Mercer and Macon working together," he said. "I think it's been very successful."
Kelly Lipps, a 16-year-old from Richmond, Va., said another girl in her youth group decided to go to Wingate University in North Carolina after going on a mission trip there.
"You bond with the people here, and you bond with the surroundings," Lipps said.
Both Mattingly and Leigh said it's likely Mercer will host campers next year as well.
Having a university host is the main thing Passport looks for in a city, said Colleen Burroughs, executive vice president of Passport Inc.
"There is need in pretty much every city," she said, adding the camp tailors its service to each individual area.
Past locations have included Deland, Fla., Daytona Beach, Fla., and Louisville, Ky.
Campers, many of whom have been on several mission trips, said the experience was rewarding and empowering.
"It's really a privilege to be able to do this," said Patrick Gray, 17, of Madison, Ala. "You can tell a lot's been done. ... I feel like we really make a difference."
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To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.