PARKERSBURG - More than 500 students and volunteers are working their way through the area this week painting homes for residents in need.
The Mid-Ohio Valley Work Camp, a nonprofit organization in its 14th year, has youth ages 13 and up in the area for this one week to paint homes for residents who either financially or physically cannot do the work themselves.
"This year we are painting 41 houses for low-income and elderly homeowners in north and south Parkersburg, Belpre, Marietta, Vienna and Waverly," said director Ryan Ice.
Zachary Ferguson, 18, of Pittsburgh, and sisters Stephanie Tonkery, 19, and Rayanna Tonkery, 12, of Fairmont, scrape old paint off of a 16th Street Parkersburg home Monday as part of the Mid-Ohio Valley Work Camp. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
Monday through Thursday, the workers, mostly teens from nine states West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland and Tennessee have converged on the Ohio Valley University campus to participate in the work.
"I wanted to help people not as fortunate as me and in need of the help," said first-time volunteer Sydney Irvine, 13, of Xenia, Ohio. "I like scraping and painting the houses, which is what we are doing."
The work camp is a project organized to give youth an opportunity to serve God by serving others in need, Ice said.
"It was started in 1999 by area youth ministers from the Church of Christ and has grown each year in the number of volunteers and homes painted," he said.
In the history of the work camp, almost 400 houses have been painted by volunteers.
While the work is being done throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley, the students and staff members are staying on the OVU campus this week after they arrived Sunday evening and held an opening prayer ceremony in the college's chapel.
"We have scraped the houses all day today (Monday) and will have all of the painting done by Thursday as this year's work camp closes," Ice said. "We are painting the homes in the hopes of changing the people's lives for the better.
"These kids have given up part of their summer vacation to serve those who need the help," he said.
While many of the volunteers including adults into their 70s have participated for many years, some, like Irvine, are first-timers.
"It is amazing how willing and excited all of our volunteers are to help those in need," Ice said. "We have a lot of fun while serving God and His work."
Ice said the week would not have been possible without the support of community organizations and businesses as not only materials, but also meals for the week have been donated. The week of work will culminate Thursday with a dinner at Ohio Valley University.
"We will not only have the volunteers, but also homeowners in attendance for the banquet," Ice said.
"We will have a slideshow presentation with pictures of before and after the painting for all of the homes.
"The event is the perfect end to the week," he said.