By AMANDA GREENE
Wilmington Faith and Values
Photos of last year’s Reach the Beach in Wilmington show high school students from across the country painting houses, wielding saws, building wheelchair ramps and hugging elderly homeowners who asked for their help.
Cape Fear Volunteer Center organizes the Christian week-long event where about 550 teens come to the Wilmington area to repair homes for the poor in our area for free. This year’s event, set for July, hopes to renovate 70-80 homes. The deadline for low income residents to apply to be one of those houses is March 1.
But Center president Annie Anthony says the fundraising and grant–writing for the $20,000 to fund this year’s Reach the Beach has barely trickled in. People and churches just aren’t giving to the event as they have in past years, she said. China Grove, N.C., hosts the only other GroupCares home repair camp in the state, and Wilmington’s camp has grown to one of the largest in the nation, Anthony said.
“2010, not all the money came in, so we just did fewer and less expensive projects. But this year, with the economic downturn, it has been much, much harder,” she said. “I don’t know how God’s gonna come through, but I know he will.”
The students will still come with their chaperones, but in order to allow
them to do the most work, Anthony’s organization has to raise the money for the raw materials.
To get the students here, the center partners with GroupCares, the nonprofit arm of the national Christian publishing house, Group Publishing. They help publicize the home repair mission trip, Anthony said. Group Publishing prints Sunday school, vacation Bible school, youth ministry and youth conference materials.
The week of July 22-28 this year, teens will come to Wilmington in buses, on planes, in cars and carrying every manner of home repair accessory. Last year, a large bus of Chicago high school students came for the week. They stay at Ashley High School, the boys on one floor and the girls on another.
Cape Fear Volunteer Center estimates the group of students and adults bring in about $500,000 to the area while they’re here because of tourism, the increased value to homes after the repairs and the value of volunteer hours.
Anthony also said there are free ways to contribute to Reach the Beach, including volunteering and donating construction tools and ladders.
Reach the Beach students this year also will arrive with loads of canned goods, which they collect to donate to local charity, House of Mercy Ministries.
“It’s amazing. They pile the food at the foot of a cross and build a human chain and pass it down to load into the ministry’s vans,” Anthony added.
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