The Valdosta Daily Times
For the eighth year, youth from around the country have come to Valdosta to help improve housing in substandard neighborhoods around town, at no cost to the residents.
This year, 212 young people from nine states worked through the week to make repairs and repaint 18 houses, helping the elderly and disabled get the home improvement work they need but cannot complete themselves.
The homes are selected by the City of Valdosta Neighborhood Development Division based on qualifying criteria. The homes must be occupied, in a designated revitalization area, and containing homeowners who are
disabled or elderly and meeting income criteria.
“This is part of our effort to meet the goal we have in our city to eliminate substandard housing by 2020,” Public Information Officer Sementha Mathews said. “The volunteers get here Sunday and leave Saturday, and they work Monday through Friday, take a lunch break on-site and work until five.”
Improvements include installing decks, porch railings, ramps and screening and repainting and improving siding. The volunteers pay about $400 each and arrive in town via car, bus or van and “camp” on the floor of a school building. Their funds go to travel, the purchase of materials and the rental of the building.
“It has been fantastic,” Workcamp Director Cheryl Crawford said. “It’s sponsored by the City of Valdosta, Lowe’s and Valspar. It’s one of the best Workcamps hosted in the United States.”
The camp isn’t all volunteer work, however. Wild Adventures offers the young free day passes, and the group takes an afternoon off Wednesday to play in the park.
“Wild Adventures was fabulous. We’re so grateful for that,” Crawford said.
Crawford has directed the camp for eight years and Valdosta has had such a profound impact on her, she is planning to move back and become a permanent resident.
“I have dreams to return and I’m looking into Valdosta,” Crawford said. “The Workcamp hospitality here is phenomenal.”
Residents Johnnie and Marietta Jones certainly enjoyed the help. Volunteers refurbished a handrail to a wooden ramp leading to their front door, added a railing around their back porch to prevent falls and put a coat of paint on the eaves and siding of their home.
“I’ve never met kids like that,” Johnnie Jones said. “They love people. They’d change Valdosta if they were here a year or two.”