There's a good reason why it seems like there's more teenagers than usual out and about this week in Glenwood.
Sunday afternoon, 265 teenagers, representing six states (Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana), arrived in Glenwood to begin a week of home repair and restoration work for dozens of elderly, disabled and financially-restricted residents of the Glenwood community. The teens are performing the work as participants in the faith-based TeenServe mission program.
The teens are spending their week here painting houses, building wheelchair ramps and performing a variety of carpentry-related tasks. They’re being supervised and assisted by a team of adult volunteers.
“We’ll have crews of five or six (workers). They’ll be doing 45 projects this week in Glenwood,” said TeenServe co-founder and co-director Lori LaBelle. “We brought in 600 gallons of paint for this. They’ll get quite a bit of painting done – interior and exterior.”
The Glenwood Middle School is serving as the operations hub for Glenwood’s TeenServe workcamp. Classrooms throughout the building have been transformed into sleeping quarters for the teens, who start their day bright and early with breakfast in the school’s cafeteria. Then, it’s out to the community for a day of work. They return to the middle school each night for supper and an evening program and musical worship service in the gymnasium. “Lights Out” is at 10:30 p.m.
Several Glenwood-area churches are serving as sponsors for TeenServe’s workcamp in Glenwood. Michelle Evans and Pastor Evan Welcher from Glenwood’s First Christian Church are among a team of local volunteers who, for the past several months, have been making the preparations for TeenServe’s visit to Glenwood.
“We’ve been working on this with them for several months,” LaBelle said. “I know they’ve been working on getting everything put together in Glenwood for over a year.”
Welcher has been involved with the program for several years. Evans said having the TeenServe participants in town is a win-win situation.
“I feel it will be beneficial to the community,” Evans said. “People who need help in a small town sometimes get overlooked.
“The cross-generation mix of teens and adults is great.”
LaBelle said approximately 70 adult chaperones are volunteering their time with the teens this week. TeenServe also has a 14-member administrative team coordinating the week’s activities. In addition to their work in the Glenwood area, LaBelle said TeenServe is also partnering with the Council Bluffs chapter of Habitat For Humanity’s “A Brush With Kindness” program to do some work in that community.
Based in Holcombe, Wis., LaBelle and her husband, Jeff, founded TeenServe in 1999. TeenServe has organized 36 workcamps in 24 locations and has had over 8,300 participants complete work on 1,547 homes at workcamps in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.