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Home repair ministry gives youth chance to serve

Home repair ministry gives youth chance to serve

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Home repair ministry gives youth chance to serve

By Mary Lee Downey | Aug. 11, 2009 {1065}

LONGWOOD, Fla. — In a worn-down Longwood neighborhood, an elderly couple is sitting on their sofa watching Christian television. There are photos scattered around the room, the kitchen table is covered with a white lace tablecloth, and religious imagery speckles the walls.

Youth paint Edward and Mattie Grimmage’s home. Photo by Mary Lee Downey. Photo #09-1284.

Suddenly, a loud bang erupts from outside the house, but Edward and Mattie Grimmage aren’t alarmed. It’s only a team of youth from Georgia repainting their house and giving them back the home they once had before storms and time took their toll.

“I so appreciate (the help),” Edward said. “Being the man, I used to be able to take care of things, but now I can’t do nothing.”

Edward, who moves around with the help of a wheelchair, explains how IMPACT Ministries of Central Florida Inc. and its volunteers have helped remodel his home, giving it a fresh coat of paint, a wheelchair ramp and some yard upkeep in between. It’s all part of IMPACT’s mission to help people in need reclaim their dignity and experience the love of Christ along the way.

Putting faith into action

Chad Garmin is IMPACT Ministries’ executive director. He said the organization was founded in 1998 as a home repair ministry of Sanlando United Methodist Church in Longwood in response to the need for organized youth service projects in the area. Garmin said he questioned why groups were going to “North Carolina or Tennessee or even foreign countries to help people do this kind of home repair when there were needs right in our own backyard.” The answer, he knew, was that there weren’t any organizations providing the logistical services youth groups needed to coordinate such project, and so IMPACT Ministries was born.

The ministry celebrated its 10th anniversary last year and this year received a $4,500 grant from the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship’s 2009 Youth Service Fund. The grant will be used to provide scholarships to low-income minority youth who want to participate in the ministry.

“The concept and idea is that we wanted students to be able to put faith into action,” Garmin said. “It’s one thing to come to church and learn about what it means to have faith, and it is a completely different idea to go out and actually put that faith into practice. So that’s what we wanted to do — allow students, specifically middle school and high school students, the opportunity to put faith into action through serving our local community.”

Chad Garmin oversees work on Edward and Mattie Grimmage’s home. Photo by Mary Lee Downey. Photo #09-1285.

IMPACT does that by matching youth groups with home repair projects for people in need.

Typically, the youth work during spring break or the summer, Garmin said, although projects can be scheduled any time during the year. The students are placed in teams of no more than 20 and dispersed across Central Florida to work. In the process, they are encouraged to spend time getting to know the residents they are helping and building relationships.

“I have so enjoyed the way we work with groups and work with growing staff and work with the residents,” said Julie Sisson, IMPACT’s base camp manger. “We really get to know them (the residents).”

It’s not all hard work, however. Games and Christian education are also incorporated into a service project week. During the summer programs, Garmin said, students start their day in optional Bible Study time called “Joe with Jesus.” They then have breakfast, small group discussion and prayer. After that, it’s out to the mission site for the day, stopping for lunch and devotional time. After returning to the IMPACT-provided housing offered by area churches, students have time to wind down, get showered in the custom-made shower trailer and head to worship in the evening. During worship students learn how to reach out to the community while on the trip and ways to use those skills back in their home communities. Most groups arrive Sunday night, work throughout the week — except for a free day on Wednesday — and leave the following Saturday.

“We are helping the people that don’t have enough money to afford this stuff,” said Hannah Smith, a ninth-grader from Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., who has been working on the Grimmages’ home. “And it is really fun to do because we are having fun while we are helping someone.”

Needs are growing

More than 800 people in Orange County, Fla., are unable to make repairs to their homes, according to IMPACT’s Web site. To date, IMPACT has helped provide a safe environment for residents living in more than 230 of those homes. The Web site also notes that as the community grows and ages the need for help will increase because elderly or disabled families, some making less than $10,000 a year, will be unable to move from their homes or afford repairs.

A young girl helps a group of teens paint her family’s home. Photo courtesy of Impact Ministries. Photo #09-1286.

“The fact is that they don’t have the financial means to be able to do the work,” Garmin said. “So it’s a kind of a double whammy of not being able to physically do the work on top of not having the income. They can’t pay to have it done, and they can’t do it themselves.”

One added benefit of making the repairs as they are needed is that it helps prevent additional damage to homes during future storms.

“Many of us look at paint as being a luxury or as something that is cosmetic, but it does have other purposes,” Garmin said. “It helps seal up the house so that if we were going to have another bad hurricane with that driving rain for hours, it wouldn’t seep into the house.”

And if a house isn’t properly sealed, he said, mold can build up in the moist areas of the wall. The group has also repaired roofs and worked with other agencies to place sturdy windows in some homes.

Back in their living room, Edward and Mattie give Garmin an update on other repairs they need around the house. “We’ll see what needs to be done to that bathroom,” Garmin tells the family as a praise song blares across the television.

Outside, the kids are still painting. It may look like just another coat of paint, but to the Grimmages it’s the light of Jesus Christ splashing hope across their home.

“For many of the residents that we are working for their house is the last big thing they have pride in,” Garmin said. “So if they are able to feel confident in where they are living and able to feel joy then that spreads to other areas of their life.”

More information about IMPACT Ministries is available at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Downey is a freelance writer based in St. Cloud, Fla.