DANVILLE — For several years, First Presbyterian Church of Danville youth group members have helped rehabilitate homes for elderly, disabled and low-income residents throughout the country through the national Group Cares organization.
This summer, the church and city of Danville are partnering to bring the program to town and repair 40 or so homes for free.
Now the sponsors are seeking applications from eligible homeowners. The deadline to apply is Jan. 8.
"Believe it or not, there is no catch," office manager Sheila Smiley said of the work-camp program, which will be held July 7-11 in Danville. "It's church-based, and youth groups have been going around the country doing these home repairs for years."
Applications are available at First Presbyterian Church, Faith in Action, Love Inc., CRIS Senior Services, Laura Lee Fellowship House, the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency and 25 local churches.
"So ask your church if it's involved," Smiley said.
Smiley said the application is three pages long, but simple to fill out. She said volunteers are available to help residents complete the form.
Formerly the Group Workcamps Foundation, Group Cares is a nonprofit volunteer-service home-repair group and Christian youth ministry that aims to help residents do projects they can't afford or physically do themselves. Since it was established in 1977, the Loveland, Colo.-based organization has held rehabs in hundreds of communities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rick, including areas hit hard by natural disasters.
Last year, several teens and adult chaperones from the First Presbyterian Church were part of a team that worked on 30 or so homes in Mount Vernon.
"I don't tend to get very excited, but I came home from the camp and didn't shut up about it for two days," said Nick de Place, a longtime church member. He served as a site coach and oversaw 10 of the 30 work sites.
"These kids were just really delightful and well-mannered," continued de Place, who worked with junior high and high school-age kids from all over the country. "They just want to help people. Others enjoy the interaction and teamwork. Some look forward to the religious activities. It's all part of it."
This year, de Place will be the local site survey director. He, along with city officials, which are using some of its federal block grant money for the program, will identify work projects.
Repairs include interior and exterior painting, weatherization, porch and wheelchair ramp construction and mobile home skirting.
"Right now we're looking to do about 40 homes," de Place said. However, he said, the number will be determined by the number of volunteers.
Organizers are expecting more than 230 volunteers. They will be housed at Danville High School, where they also will hold morning and evening worship services each day. Group Cares will reimburse the school district for costs.
Funding for the project also comes from youth participants. Each youth pays a registration fee, which along with co-sponsor funding, is used to cover the cost of building equipment and other supplies.
For more information or to request assistance with an application, people can call Smiley at 442-0541.