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Rocky Mount Teenagers Help to Build a Strong Community

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ROCKY MOUNT — SomeRocky Mountteenagers are making their town a better place to live. The kids are arming themselves with tools and fixing up homes for less fortunate people who cannot afford to pay for the work.

It is common for church groups to travel across the country doing mission work, but the Rocky Mount group is taking a different approach by spending their time helping people close to home.

Neafolly Watson can take care of the inside of her Rocky Mount home, but it is the outside that causes her problems. The teenagers spent the day helping her out.

"I appreciate it very much," Watson said. "I just can't tell them how much I do appreciate it."

The young churchgoers are part of a group called "Gatekeepers." Like youth groups throughout the country, they volunteer their time -- even paying for the materials -- to help senior citizens.

Crew leader Duane Williams decided to focus on Rocky Mount a few years ago when he realized that church groups do not have to go to other states to find people who need help.

"It was sort of a cold slap in the face, you know. We said, 'Why are we going other places when there's still poverty and impoverished [places] in our own community,'" Williams said, "so that's when we started bringing the [workers] home."

A total of 115 students and 35 adults are helping this year. Along with a handful of houses, they are also sprucing up an old church building that sat vacant for years.

"We all need help, and someday I might need help," said volunteer Paul Windley, "and I'd like somebody to give back to me, so why not help them?"

"It's so important to know that we can reach and touch them in ways that they would never be able to themselves," said crew co-leader Greg Battle. "And, so they can feel that they have not been forgotten, and that the young people in the community and around the city still care about our senior citizens."

The volunteers represent about 10 churches from four different denominations. They plan to wrap up this summer's work later this week.


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