RIVER RIDGE, La. - Gwendolyn Dupard, 86, says her River Ridge home needed a lot of work, and a little love.
That’s why she was thrilled when she received a letter from Jefferson Parish government, saying a group of middle and high school students would help paint and pressure wash her home, plus build a wheelchair ramp.
“I said, ‘My God!’ I jumped for joy,” said Dupard
It’s all through a non-profit Christian group called World Changers. It has brought more than 250 students to Jefferson Parish this week. They are partnering with Volunteers of America to help nearly two dozen elderly or disabled homeowners fix their homes.
But organizers say, the students were also doing much more.
“It's about sharing God's love in the community and showing them that there is hope,” said Megan Tillman, mission and communications specialist for World Changers.
High schoolers like Taylor Doss, of Mason, TX, say they're just grateful to be here.
“Just seeing everybody stop by and honk and wave, and going down and evangelizing, really it's mind blowing,” said Doss.
The hours are long. Students wake up before dawn and work through the early evening. They have paid hundreds of dollars to participate.
And after a long day of work, the students sleep on air mattresses and sleeping bags at John Curtis Lower and High Schools.
“It's been hard because I'm used to my nice little pillow top mattress back at home,” said Doss.
But, Doss adds, it's worth it. Friday night marked the group’s last night sleeping at the school. It’s been a program tradition since the school opened its doors to volunteers after Hurricane Katrina.
“From our perspective it's our way to give back to those kids,” said John Curtis Christian School Coach J.T. Curtis.
The teens are scheduled to leave Friday morning.
The next group of "World Changers" will be in Hammond next week.