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Gatekeepers help neighbors in need

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Stella Costa. 14, left, and Emma Everette, 14, paint the front porch of a house Wednesday during the Gatekeepers Workcamp.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, July 12, 2019

Youth and adult participants in the Gatekeepers Workcamp are working hard this week at homes all over Rocky Mount, lending a helping hand to neighbors in need.

This is the 28th anniversary of the Gatekeepers Workcamp, an annual service week that was started and still sponsored by Lakeside Baptist Church. Though the work camp began as a ministry of Lakeside Baptist, 13 area churches are participating in the event this week, said Elizabeth Edwards, assistant minister at Lakeside Baptist and coordinator of the Gatekeepers Workcamp.

“This is one of the best things we do as a church and a community,” said the Rev. Jody Wright, senior pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church and the leader of one of the nine work crews serving in the community this week. “Our theme this week is ‘loving our neighbor as ourselves” and that is exemplified in the way we have the faith community working with the larger community.”

Gatekeepers provides a hands-on, Christian mission experience for youth in grades 6-12 in an ecumenical setting, according to a press release from Lakeside Baptist. Gatekeepers helps youth become involved in the lives of others, exposes young people to the needs of their communities and provides free home repairs for individuals and families in need.

“This camp is a wonderful way to help these young people learn how to give of themselves to help people who are less fortunate,” Wright said.

This year, roughly 100 middle- and high-school students are working hand in hand with about 50 adults to make repairs to 10 homes of selected disabled, elderly and low-income homeowners in the Rocky Mount area, Edwards said. Common repairs include exterior and interior painting, roof repairs, repairs to rotten floors and porches and weatherization.

Another 75 or so volunteers work on the sidelines, bringing in supplies, lunches, water and snacks to hot and tired volunteers, Edwards said.

“This is a large group effort,” Edwards said on Wednesday as workers made repairs to a home on the 500 block of Center Street. “We also have local businesses that help out by donating supplies or giving us discounts on food and materials.”

Edwards said there is a waiting list of people who need repairs made to their homes.

“These are all homeowner-occupied homes,” Edwards said. “Most of these residents have lived in their homes for years and are just so elderly or disabled that they have a hard time maintaining their homes.”

But working on these homes gives young people who participate in the workcamp a chance to gain home improvement skills as well.

“We are learning how to take care of homes and that is something we will need in the future,” said Spencer Edwards, 15. This is his fourth year participating in the workcamp. “It is also good to know that we are helping someone else instead of just wasting our time. Some of these projects seem like small things, but they are really important to the people who live here.”

Jessica Williams, a rising senior at Tarboro High School, discovered that she enjoys painting as she has worked this week at the Gatekeepers Workcamp for the first time.

“I got involved because I thought this would look good on my transcript and would give me some job experience,” Williams said. “But I am learning how to take care of my own house and I am making some new friends. I also think it is good to give back to the community.”