Several hundred youths from throughout the nation -- representing World Changers mission organization -- have been busy this week helping to renovate homes in low-income Clovis neighborhoods.
They also have been making new friends, experiencing life in a different state and learning repair skills.
Many of the youths have multiple World Changers experiences, returning each year to do more work. They say their favorite part of the week is when their finished work is unveiled to the homeowner.
"It's seeing the look on the homeowner's face," says Stephanie Secrest, 15, of Kingston, Wash. "It's, 'I can't believe you did this for me -- and it's free.' "
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World Changers, a ministry of the North American Mission Board, sent nearly 300 youths to Clovis this week. They started Tuesday, seeking to renovate 21 homes and a food pantry by Friday. This is the mission group's eighth summer in Clovis.
The Clovis Community Redevelopment Agency is providing the materials for the local work, and the Mid-Valley Southern Baptist Association is organizing local churches to provide daily meals for the workers. The youths' home base is the Clovis North Educational Center, where they are sleeping in 30 classrooms.
World Changers' goal is to provide a weeklong mission experience for youths and adults where they can meet the physical and spiritual needs of others through projects such as roofing, painting, landscaping and fencing. World Changers spokesman Scott Stephens says about 75% of volunteers are repeaters.
They include Secrest, who is spending this week helping to build a new fence and remove a palm tree in the backyard of a home on West Rialto Avenue.
She started her third World Changers experience in three years by lugging old fence boards to a Dumpster on the street. She also painted and landscaped in Salt Lake City in 2009 and painted in Spokane, Wash., last year.
"I enjoy going to different states and meeting different people," she says. "Honestly, I wanted to come to California; it's the weather. It's nicer than back home, where it rains off and on."
But, she says, it's more than that. Earlier this week, she wanted to fast-forward to Friday to celebrate with the homeowners. Tears just may well up in everybody's eyes.
Steve Ritter, 15, of Glenrock, Wyo., also is a repeater. Already this summer, he has painted in Sioux City, Wyo., and Casper, Wyo. Working in Clovis gives him nine World Changers experiences in four years.
He says he enjoys meeting new people, particularly the homeowners. In Casper two weeks ago, he returned to a home where he worked the previous year -- and the homeowner revealed she had become a Christian and was baptized.
"That's the first time I got to experience the impact of World Changers on a homeowner," he says. "Some homeowners join in with the crew to help. Once, a homeowner played his guitar for us."
Ken Martin, 22, of Bremerton, Wash., is a repeater who roofed in Salt Lake City in 2009 and painted in Spokane last year.
His motive, he says, is much different from his pre-World Changers experiences. "It was to meet girls," he says. "God changed my life. Now, I work to continue to get to know him."
Lauren Annin, a volunteer with the Clovis Hills Community Church youth group, is working as a crew chief -- her eighth World Changers experience. Four were for hurricane relief in Pensacola, Fla.
"I started just because my friends were doing it," she says. "When you actually get into it and you get to know the homeowners, it changes your perspective."
Secrest, Martin and Annin have been working at the residence of Jen and Chiu Ying Chen, who say they are grateful for the volunteers' help.
"This is very good for young people and for the community," Chiu Ying Chen says. "It teaches young people about traveling and learning something they can use later in life."
Jen Chen says, "It's training them to be very good citizens -- they're helping others."
World Changers' previous efforts in Clovis have satisfied homeowners, including Carolyn Costa.
In 2009, a crew painted Costa's home, built a fence and re-roofed a backyard shed. She says, "The kids were awesome. Everything is still nice."