FREEHOLD – For young people, summer usually means swimming, skateboarding and having a good time. This summer a group of at least 300 young people will do more than that. They will help to change the world of some local families – one at a time.
A group of ambitious youngsters with a mission to “change worlds” will arrive in Freehold Borough this summer. They are part of an organization called World Changers. They will come to help rehabilitate properties that are in need of improvement and they will do it for free.
According to information provided by Borough Administrator Joseph Bellina, the mission of the organization is to change the life of the participants by giving them a chance to change someone’s world.
The idea to bring the World Changers program to the area came from George Russ, the pastor of the Colts Neck Baptist Church.
World Changers typically sponsors four types of mission projects: junior high, senior high, college and all youth projects. According to Russ, the program, which has been in existence since 1990, is under the auspices of the North American Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention and sends 20,000 youngsters out to work in 82 cities each year.
Russ said 320 young people from 12 states have pledged to come to this area to improve the lives of individuals by helping to rehabilitate their homes and apartments. The guests will work in Freehold Borough and Neptune between July 5-12.
The pastor said the Colts Neck Baptist Church has been involved with World Changers for several years, having sent high school students and adult volunteers to places such as Canada and Buffalo, N.Y., to participate in the home improvement program.
This summer’s visit to Freehold Borough and Neptune will signal the first appearance of the World Changers program in New Jersey.
It all started with a telephone call from Russ to James Stuart, who was Colts Neck’s mayor at the time, to discuss the program. Stuart supported the pastor’s efforts to get the program started in the area. Freehold Borough Mayor Michael Wilson was then brought into the mix and asked in the fall of 2007 by Stuart if he (Wilson) thought it would be a good idea to bring World Changers to the borough.
Bellina said Wilson supported that idea.
Russ has since met with Bellina and NeptuneMayor Randy Bishop to work out the details. Richard Allen, the principal of Neptune High School and a former administrator in the Freehold Regional High School District, has offered to let the volunteers stay at his school.
Meals for the volunteers are expected to be donated by the West Monmouth Baptist Church, Freehold Township, the Howell Community Church, Howell, the New Life Christian Fellowship Church, Neptune, and Calvary Baptist Church, Neptune, in addition to private individuals who Russ has enlisted in the effort.
Russ said the student volunteers, ranging in age from 13 to young adult, will split their time between Freehold Borough and Neptune rehabilitating residences. Representatives of the group will assess which homes will be worked on prior to the arrival of the student volunteers. He said the adults who will accompany the students generally include craftsmen such as roofers, painters, carpenters who will help work on the houses.
Speaking about Freehold Borough’s participation in the program, Bellina said, “We saw a slide show and found out what would be required and how the town could serve as the facilitator to bring all these things together to make the project work.”
According to Bellina, the students provide the manpower, but not the materials. Although he said the town is not in a position to provide the materials for the home improvements, officials will work with representatives from World Changers to try to find people in the area who would like to help provide needed items for the rehabilitation projects.
Bellina said he is working with the code enforcement department to identify homes that can use some interior and exterior improvements.
Calling the World Changers program “a good thing,” Bellina said, “It’s idealism put into action.” He praised the program’s mission and its goals, which will help to spruce up some properties this summer.