Youth and adult participants in the Gatekeepers Workcamp worked hard last week to help neighbors in need.

This year there were seven crews made up of more than 100 youth and adult volunteers representing 13 area churches.

The volunteers made repairs to homes, did yard work and beautified 11 homes in the Happy Hill and South Rocky Mount neighborhoods. Participants also worked at Ripple Effects, the Mills Church, Peacemakers and the South Rocky Mount community garden.

In past years, each Gatekeepers crew spent an entire week working with a single homeowner to provide extensive repairs to individual homes, but the coronavirus pandemic required that the projects be a bit different. Elizabeth Edwards, associate minister at Lakeside Baptist Church who coordinates the Gatekeepers ministry, said that for the past two years, crews have been limited to outdoor projects, including yard work, exterior painting, community gardens and block clean-ups.

“We have worked hard to provide a positive Gatekeepers experience for our youth despite these changes,” Edwards said.

This is the 30th anniversary of the Gatekeepers Workcamp, an annual service week that was started and still sponsored by Lakeside Baptist Church. The workcamp began as a ministry of Lakeside Baptist, but through the years, several local churches have participated in the workcamp.

Abbie Hooks, a rising ninth-grader who has volunteered for the past three years with Gatekeepers, said participating in the workcamps means a lot to her.

“Gatekeepers is an incredible experience that will live in my heart forever,” she said. “Each year I volunteer to help, it finds a way to touch me in unexpected ways. This year made me realize how much I enjoy making people smile and feel loved.”

As a first-time adult volunteer, Lori Joyner, a member of Lakeside Baptist Church, participated in the workcamp with her son, Chase.

“Gatekeepers has been the most rewarding experience for us,” she said. “Sure, it is hard work, and you leave each day tired, sweaty and covered in paint — but when the homeowner comes out to tell you how wonderful everything looks, it just makes it all worthwhile. The fulfillment of doing God’s work warms your heart.”

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 Church. 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.

Gatekeepers gives youth a chance to build relationships across denominational, racial, economic and generational lines. It also gives them a chance to deepen their faith by loving and serving their neighbors.

“Gatekeepers helps youth to become involved in making a positive impact in our community and exposes young people to the needs of the community,” Edwards said. “It is our hope that the work we do will provide assistance and encouragement to residents who are no longer able to maintain their homes, as well as a positive witness of what it means to share the love of Christ with our neighbors.”

Gatekeepers Workcamp began at Lakeside Baptist Church in 1992 as a mission partnership between a consortium of Rocky Mount churches. Teams of Gatekeepers volunteers have worked in many neighborhoods and on a variety of projects throughout Rocky Mount.

Some of the neighborhoods include the Star-Beal Street area, Clark Street, the Hillsdale community, the Little Raleigh Community, Little Easonburg and the neighborhood around the Bassett School, according to a statement from Lakeside Baptist Church.

For more information about Gatekeepers Workcamp, contact Lakeside Baptist Church at or 446-0126.