Young people spend spring break volunteering in Central Texas

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Hundreds of young people from around the state are forgoing the slopes and beaches this spring break and instead rolling up their sleeves to help the poor in Central Texas by volunteering with Mission Waco.

(Mission Waco photo)

One group departed Central Texas Wednesday night after four days of service, while another arrives Thursday and another next week.

“For us, if you can introduce your kids to people that are different early, it will break those barriers,” said Dennis Ellzey, Director of groups of volunteers at Mission Waco.

“Many of the kids coming to help are rich kids and they leave with a whole new perspective.”

A total of 106 ninth graders and chaperones from Regents High School in Austin, a private Christian, classical school, spent Sunday through Wednesday night serving all across Waco.

They started the week by attending the Church Under the Bridge service for the homeless followed by a crash course in the work of Mission Waco.

“They learned about Mission Waco, who were are and why we do what we do,” said Mission Waco founder Jimmy Dorrell.

The volunteers then spent the next three days fanning out across town doing service projects.

One group cleaned out gutters and grass overgrowth near curbs on 15th street while another cleaned Mission Waco facilities.

D’s Mediterranean Grill on Colcord, adjacent to Mission Waco’s World Cup Café and Jubilee Food Market grocery store, was given a landscape makeover.

The kids built a new shed at The Urban Renewable Energy and Agriculture project, or REAP, while others painted the exterior of Mission Waco’s apartment complex, called the Ark.

Some of the most meaningful time was spent at Jeffrey Place Healthcare center on Jeffrey Street, which accepts Medicare and Medicaid patients, as the students visited with and painted fingernails of residents, an act which moved some to tears.

“At the nursing homes, we had people crying because they just don’t get a lot of visitors,” Ellzey said.

The afternoons were spent hosting a vacation bible school called “street camp” for kids ages 5 to 11 at Barron’s Branch Apartments, The Villages Apartments and Aspen Oaks.

“It’s always a big deal for kids in these apartment complexes to interact with these teenagers who come to communicate with them that they’re important. The kids love it, Ellzey said.

Mission Waco also rolled out its mobile book store where the neighborhood kids could buy two books for a dollar or trade book for book.

Thursday night 95 fourth and fifth graders from Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall will arrive for days of service with Mission Waco followed by a group of 32 middle school students from Grace Covenant Church Of Austin next week.

“I don’t think this is typically the way you think people will spend their Spring Break so it’s always inspiring even for me when people decide to come and do this with their time off,” Ellzey said.