SEVERN, MARYLAND - Kate Snyder has been living in the same house in Severn, Maryland, for more than 18 years, where she raised her son.
"It was a beautiful place to raise a child," she says. "Now, I'm on my own and still enjoying it."
But as the years pass, the house needs many repairs. Snyder, who is retired and still works on two part-time jobs, could not afford to pay for them.
Enter, Group Cares
Each year, the faith-based organization sends hundreds of teens on more than 150 home repair and community service mission trips across the United States.
One group is spending a week repairing Snyder's house.
"They're going to put new stairs for me," she said happily. "And it needed paint desperately."
Blocks away, another group of teens is working on Ursula Brett's home, stripping off wallpaper, preparing walls for painting.
Free repairs and more
More than 400 teenagers from all over the United States spend one week of their summer vacation renovating homes by day, and sleeping on the floor of local churches by night.
Eric Lohe, spokesperson for Group Cares, says that at each of the 30 locations, teens are divided into groups of five, working under the guidance of adult volunteers.
"We provide adult leaders who are always around on the sites helping students to be able to learn the skills they wouldn't necessarily have from home."
Both students and adult volunteers raise money for the camp. Local co-sponsors provide financial contributions, as well.
"That combined money provides for lodging and food cost," Lohe explained. "It also covers material costs, so when we come to a resident we can say, 'We're here to help you, to provide the repairs, but we're going to do that at no cost.'"
Time to help and learn
The teens working in homes in Severn were part of the Chesapeake Bay Camp. Director Barry Oren says they arrive as strangers.
"We put them in crews with people they never met before. Then, they go out and work on somebody's home they not only never met before, but also probably will never see again. The idea that they are stepping out of their comfort zone is huge for them. It gives them an opportunity to be part of the team. Very quickly, almost instantly, they learn how to do projects together."
This summer, the Chesapeake Bay Camp teens put in 7,650 service hours.
"All of a sudden, it starts to make sense," Oren said. "'Oh, there are people who don't live like I do. There are people that I can help.' They're learning about how to communicate, how to express need and how to become empathetic."
And since it's a faith-based operation, they have two worship services a day.
"We're really geared toward helping students, 12- through 17-year-olds, to be able to know God's love for them," Lohe said. "And to be able to share this love, not necessarily by preaching, but by showing that they care for people in the community."
Camp organizers say that while the free repairs help homeowners save money, what these young people get in return is priceless.