Until devastating tornadoes hit the area in 2011, youngsters from the First United Methodist Church had spent a week of their summer vacation helping others outside their community during Youth Mission Week. After they saw the damage the tornadoes left behind, they realized no one needed them more than their own hometown.

“It’s kind of like going off on a mission trip, but instead of going outside of the community to work, the kids stay here,” said youth director Joey Spivey. “They come and stay at the church all week.”

Most are from First United Methodist. Some come from other churches.

After working on various projects during the day, they attended church services at night. Thursday nights are mike nights when those who choose to speak can do so.

“We just let the kids come up and say what the week has meant to

them,” said Spivey. “It’s a very, very emotional service. It’s something you really have to experience.”

Spivey said everyone can see that the youngsters are greatly impacted by the week. Also, he said, working together for others during the week made them grow closer to each other.

Monday through Thursday a total of 48 worked on 12 projects around town. On Friday they were treated to a break when adults drove them to Spring Valley Beach, a water park in Blountville.

“It’s incredible how hard they work,” said Spivey, who is in his 10th year as youth director. “Several of them even gave up trips to the beach. It shows others how much they love Jesus. This is where my inspiration comes from.”

Spivey said the work couldn’t have been accomplished without help from volunteers and members of his church as well as other churches. The youth received lessons on landscaping and cosmetic work on houses.

Piedmont Healthcare Center wasn’t left out. Some of them spent Thursday visiting residents there and doing activities with them.

Mary Guidry, an 11th grade student, has worked with the group for the past three years. Mary though, won’t be back next year. She and her family are moving to Slidell, La., where her father works.

“It just feels right whenever I do this,” said Mary. “It’s nice to see the smiles on their faces and the surprised look when they see what we’ve done for them. It makes me feel great that I’m doing God’s work

for them.”

Mary said she’ll miss not being a part of the effort next year. She said she’ll also miss her church family and friends.

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com