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Changing the world by volunteering

Spokane residents Nick Ehry, left, and Jon Wuthrich hammer roofing tiles onto Helen McDowell’s Herren Avenue home. The noise perturbed her cats, but McDowell was pleased with the job, she said. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Spokane residents Nick Ehry, left, and Jon Wuthrich hammer roofing tiles onto Helen McDowell’s Herren Avenue home. The noise perturbed her cats, but McDowell was pleased with the job, she said.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

The World Changers were in town, and they lived up to their name, one house at a time.

Bremerton was one of 98 cities chosen for the program that has spread worldwide. It’s the group’s fourth year in town, and 277 students grades six through college arrived on Saturday, July 27 and left yesterday after completing projects at 22 homes in the city.

Armed with paint brushes and hammers, the World Changers gave each house a new roof, exterior paint or both. Bob and Clayudette Tulp are largely responsible for getting World Changers into Bremerton in the first place. Through their church, Kitsap Lake Baptist, they became involved with the student volunteer initiative of the North American Mission Board when they brought youth groups to California and Georgia to participate in World Changers.

The couple noticed that the program (which started in the Southeast) remained largely in that area, and they wanted to expand it to the Northwest.

“We were saying ‘hey this can happen here, we can do this,’” Clayudette said.

In February, 16,000 applications were mailed to Bremerton residents in their water bills. Three hundred applications were returned, and based on the number of youths who were coming, they narrowed it to 22 houses.

To be eligible, the resident must be an owner-occupant within the city limits and must meet certain income requirements.

“We try to be fair and get the houses in the worst condition, and we can get the work done in four-and-a-half days,” Bob said.

Typically, elderly residents are chosen because they have fixed incomes and are unable to do the work themselves.

The Christian youth organization partners with the city and the federal Housing and Urban Development group, which provides all the materials.

World Changers youths provide the labor. This year, 20 youth groups arrived from Arkansas, British Columbia, California, Florida, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

The kids pay $245 in addition to funding their own transportation. They slept in classrooms at Bremerton Junior High School.

“It’s really a cool week in their life,” Clayudette said.

A work crew, varying in size depending on the job, is assigned to each site. Members chose a group name and work together to complete the project. Thirteen local churches volunteered to serve lunch to the crews.

Hollie Adams, 16, and John Wuthrich, 17, learned about World Changers through their Spokane church and decided to join. They were in the “Nail Heads” crew, which painted and re-roofed 87-year-old Helen McDowell’s East Bremerton Home.

“It’s fun seeing their faces light up from people doing something nice for them,” Adams said.

Wuthrich said he enjoyed contributing more than just manual labor, and liked “Showing them there are people out there that will help ... ”

McDowell’s daughter, Karen Steele, convinced her mom to apply to have her home revamped.

“These kids are so great,” Steele said. “She certainly doesn’t have the money, I said this would be perfect.”

McDowell, who has lived in the house for 53 years, said her cats were not fond of the hammering on the roof but she was very thankful for the “nice” kids improving her home.

“It is wonderful what they are doing ... I wouldn’t have probably had it done for a while,” she said.

Before they began work last weekend, the kids spent time building bird feeders to give to each resident along with a group photo of the crew that worked on their house.

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