Summer is a time for many youth to spend lazy days poolside or in the company of friends, or perhaps for the teen crowd, a summer job keeps them busy. But many kids take advantage of the time off from school to dedicate their time and talents into helping others.
TIME (The Tucker Interfaith Mission Experience) is one such group. Since 2007, this youth-driven project, organized by Tucker First United Methodist Church, has been helping qualifying Tucker area residents to re-roof their homes. Last week, between June 17 and 22, 55 youth plus many adult volunteers worked together to put new roofs on four houses in the Tucker community.
TIME is a nonprofit home repair outreach mission run by local youth and adults. Every summer, they give a week of their time, energy, and expertise to replacing roofs in Tucker for those who can't afford to do it otherwise. According to TIME's web site, "We often ignore the fact that poverty exists in our own backyards. It's TIME to help. As we help with these physical needs, we build stronger relationships within our community."
Jo Anna Becker, CEO and administrator of TIME, says "I think the best thing about this project is that it gives the kids the opportunity to do something significant for someone that is a lasting and not easily accomplished gift. Often, Jesus would make the point to his followers that Discipleship wasn’t easy, that it would require some suffering. Everyone has to get out of their comfort zone a bit with TIME. It’s not easy, but it is absolutely incredibly rewarding."
The TIME project is an all-encompassing week of work, fellowship, and togetherness for the youth involved. At the beginning of the week they surrender their keys and cell phones in order to give their full attention to the project. They work all day on the roofs, then come back and sleep at the church at night. A team of volunteers works to provide meals for them (plus the necessary Gatorade and popsicles to stay hydrated in the extreme heat of Georgia in June). Tucker High School opens their locker rooms to provide the participants a place to shower every day.
"It's like sending them to camp. Unless the parents are volunteering, they essentially say goodbye to their children for a week," said Lee Cooke, who helps with meals and evening activities and whose daughters Emma and Tiffany have both worked on the project. "They work all day, but they play all night. It's a wonderful opportunity for community service, and it's a nice way to give back to my church and community," she said.
The "play" she spoke of includes many activities both at the church and throughout the area. During the week, after working on the roofs beginning early each morning, the youth spent evenings in fellowship, prayer, and fun. Activities included tie-dying shirts, playing in inflatables in the activity center, the TIME olympiad, and a trip to the laser show at Stone Mountain Park.
Kay Entrekin, who has participated in TIME with her husband and daughters for the last four years, became involved with the project because she loves mission work, and her daughter signed up to work on it. "I then realized what a wonderful mission it was in that it showed the youth how to give to others, work in our LOCAL community, worship and fellowship with other youth, and gather skills that are practical and serve as a metaphor for life (safely layer the roof with materials in such a way that there are no leaks, live life with layers of support, not just one, and keep them aligned in such a way that when bad things happen you are prepared to cope to the best of your ability - roofs and life on earth are temporary; you can’t hurry the process or take short cuts, each step has a purpose)," she said.
This year's youth were divided into four teams, each responsible for one roof. Youth leaders, called "TIME Keepers," were appointed for each group, along with on-site adults at each location.
Amanda Henley, who stepped in as Youth Director at TFUMC just three months after the first TIME project in 2007, speaks very highly of the experience and of the youth involved. "I am thoroughly impressed with this project and the dedication of our students. Every day these middle- and high-schoolers wake up in the wee hours, head out and work as a team to accomplish a task that many adults are not willing to do. Their perseverance during hot temperatures, frustrating obstacles, and borderline exhaustion is incredible and a testimony to their faith in God and His promise to work through us. I am incredibly proud to work with them and look forward to seeing what kind of impact it has on the rest of their lives," she said.
The hardest thing about TIME? Surprisingly, it's finding houses to roof. According to Jo Anna Becker, "It takes great faith on the part of a homeowner to believe someone is going to put a new roof on their home for free, no strings attached. While there are likely many homeowners in the Tucker area who would qualify, we are searching for homes every year. Of course, there is a certain physical criteria the homes must meet. The perfect home for TIME is one story, with a low- to moderately pitched roof. We cannot place TIME youth in a dangerous situation. Furthermore, TIME applicants must own the home and meet a certain income threshold."
TIME re-roofs houses for free each summer for residents who meet income requirements and whose homes fit the required specifications. Money for the program is raised through the selling of "stock" in the project. Shareholders participate in a dinner at the conclusion of the TIME project, and youth participants pay a fee which covers their meals and activities. A non-profit organization, TIME is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
To learn more about both the TIME youth experience and about qualifying to become a TIME house, visit the TIME web site.