‘Serving Your Neighbor’: Program provides free home repairs for people in need through youth mission trip


Westfield resident Norman Salazar stood outside his mobile home watching as a group of six students and adults from across the U.S. worked to make improvements to his residence as part of a mission trip.

The weeklong effort led by CrossRoads Church at Westfield at Salazar’s home in late June was one of nearly two dozen projects taking place in northern Hamilton County as part of an effort to help individuals and families in need with free home repairs. The program was created in partnership with Group Mission Trips, a youth mission organization based in Fort Collins, Colo., said Eric Lohe, lead pastor at CrossRoads Church at Westfield.

Westfield was among 20 communities across the United States where Group Mission Trips was conducting weeklong youth mission home repair camps in. Two hundred students and adult leaders traveled to Westfield to participate in the church’s partnership with the Colorado-based organization.

Besides Salazar’s mobile home, students and adult leaders also worked at a home on Penn Street and another on South Street in Westfield.

“We are seeking to be good neighbors and to help people stay in their homes,” Lohe said.

Students and adult leaders stayed at Westfield Middle School during the seven-day stay from June 18-24 as they provided free home repairs to 21 homes that were selected through an application process. More than 70 applications were received by CrossRoads Church at Westfield for the program, according to Lohe.

Lohe said the free home repairs are tied to one of the church’s four initiatives known as “For Our Neighbor,” in which it aims to meet, know, enjoy and serve the needs of local neighbors.

The 21 homes that were identified to receive repairs involved 11 youth groups from eight different states working on residences located in Arcadia, Cicero, Noblesville, Sheridan and Westfield, said Sarah Melvin, director of missions and administration with CrossRoads Church at Westfield. Among the work included building or repairing wheelchair ramps, constructing new porches, in addition to indoor and outdoor painting, she said.

Melvin said homes that were selected through the submitted applications were evaluated based on overall need and how long a particular project would take to complete.

Salazar, a disabled veteran who has lived in his residence for seven years, said he was thankful that individuals from the mission trip were contributing their time to improve his home. He had submitted an application for the free home repair program after his neighbor received improvements last year, he said.

Salazar said he tried to make repairs at his home on his own but said they were difficult to do and noted that he is on a limited income.

“I appreciate everything that they’re doing and I’m so grateful,” Salazar said.

Students like Leah Fraker said they enjoy being able to help people in need. Fraker, who lives in Springfield, Ohio, was among a half-dozen people in her group who worked at Salazar’s home doing mobile home skirting, in addition to drywall patching and deck painting, throughout the week.

Fraker said her trip to Westfield marked her fourth time being involved with home repairs through Group Mission Trips. She previously worked on other home repair projects in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and was in Michigan last year, she said.

Fraker said giving back and being able to meet others are two key takeaways from her experiences through the mission trips.

“Everytime I’m at a work camp, I just feel really fulfilled, meeting new people and helping them out,” Fraker said.

Fraker said in many cases, individuals might be veterans or have a disability and may not have the ability or resources to perform the necessary improvements due to the financial costs.

“We can come and do it for them that might otherwise might not happen,” she said. “It’s meaningful for all of us to have that opportunity.”

Melvin, who also has participated in the mission trips starting in 2010, described it as a “life-changing experience” for participants, including the homeowners who are receiving assistance.

“I think everyone needs to go on a mission trip in one form or another,” she said. “Often, it’s a healing and emotional time for the people we serve. This is a way to hold your hand a little bit and (let us) help you. It’s about serving your neighbor.”

Lily Vollrath, who lives in Marysville, Ohio, was also working on Salazar’s home with Fraker. The 17-year-old said she decided to get involved with the mission trip based on past positive experiences helping others elsewhere through the program.

“It just makes you feel good and it feels right,” Vollrath said. “It makes others happy.”

Fraker, who will be a freshman at Ohio University this fall, also said that many students share a common goal of wanting to help others in need.

“Everyone’s hands-on, everyone’s working hard the whole time, so it’s really cool to see that because people think teenagers are lazy and don’t want to do anything,” Fraker said. “But when you have this group of kids who get together as Christians and doing service together, that’s really meaningful to all of us.”

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Georgia resident Dylan Brown works on the outside of Westfield resident Norman Salazar’s home June 20 as part of a youth mission home repair camp effort. Westfield
was among 20 sites across the U.S. where Group Mission Trips, a youth mission organization based in Fort Collins, Colo., performed home repairs led by students and adult leaders. (Photo by Matthew Kent)

By the Numbers

200: Number of students and adults involved in the mission trip

21: Number of homes in Hamilton County that received improvements this year

11: Number of youth groups involved

8: Number of states represented