Teenagers from the priests quorum of the Kansas City North Ward are brightening the lives of some elderly inner-city residents by helping repair their homes. Since last winter, the group has rebuilt steps and added porch railings to several older residences.
“It was hard, grueling work at times, and my toes nearly froze,” said David Nielsen, one of the young men. “But it makes me feel good to help people who can’t keep up their homes just because they are elderly or too sick.”
The boys came up with the idea when the group’s leader, Matt Kessler, read about the Metropolitan Lutheran Ministry’s need for volunteers to help weatherize inner-city homes for the disadvantaged. The following Sunday in priesthood meeting he suggested the young men volunteer. The priests decided it would be a great service project. They contacted the ministry, which provided them with home referrals for the group to get started. A local lumber company provided the materials for the project.
Most of the boys had little or no experience in carpentry before the project began. Brother Kessler taught them the basic skills they required and supplied the tools the young men used. Most of the work was done by hand. “The project gives the boys an opportunity to serve people and see another part of life which they are not accustomed to,” said Brother Kessler. “We also wanted them to know how to build something when we finished.”
Most of the people the boys help are elderly widows. One 80-year-old woman, Mrs. Sara Chagoyan, has been unable to take care of her home since her husband died ten years ago. “My new steps are perfect,” she said. “I was afraid to go out my back door because the steps were so unsafe. Now I think how wonderful they are every time I go in and out of my house. I really appreciate the boys helping me.”
“I felt like I was on a mission,” said Brett Van Fleet. “We’ve actually been able to reach out and change somebody’s life.”