Sweat dripped from the teenagers’ foreheads as they tore out shrubbery, cleaned out gutters and prepared to paint a house.
The sound of metal scraping wood filled the air as they chipped old, white paint off the house. Smiles hid behind the dust masks of the volunteers who were spending a week painting homes of people in need during the 10th annual Wichita Work Camp. “Revive” is the theme of this year’s camp.
This house, the home of Scott and Kelly Larcom, is also the home of their 9-month-old daughter, Alli Larcom.
Alli weighed just 1 pound and 7 ounces when she was born at 25 weeks on Sept. 6, 2016. She was quickly intubated and connected to oxygen and a ventilator. Her parents were told they would likely bring her home on the machines, but she came home healthy and without the machines on Dec. 8, eight days before her Dec. 16 due date.
Now, nine months after Alli was born, she is “as healthy as can be” and weighs about 12 pounds.
“It is just magical,” Kelly said. “We brought her home after 93 days. I like that number.”
A group of about 10 Wichita Work Camp volunteers came from across Kansas and Oklahoma to beautify the Larcoms’ home. The crew painting their house was one of 17 work groups. Altogether, 150 volunteers – teens, college students and adult sponsors – are painting 15 homes and helping the city with graffiti removal this week.
“I am so excited for my house to look so much better,” Kelly said. “It has needed a paint job for so long, and it’s something I’ve been meaning to get to, but then we had a baby. I am so grateful for the volunteers.”
Brenda Heller, crew leader of the Larcom work site, said it is important to her that people are trained how to serve and help other people.
“This is one of the best ways to do so,” she said. “The church provides the paint, the homeowners provide the house and we provide the manpower.”
Northside Church of Christ hosts the work camp along with help from Topeka’s Central Church of Christ, Dodge City Church of Christ, Pratt Church of Christ and Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond, Okla.
“This is our way of teaching them – training them – that our whole idea here on Earth is to serve other people,” Heller said. “We serve where we are needed.”
The Larcoms attend Northside Church of Christ, but not all the families who will have their homes revived are known by the church.
The work camp takes house suggestions on their website at http://wichitaworkcamp.org/my-house-needs-painting/. Leaders also drive around the Wichita area, searching for houses that look like they are in need of some time, love and care.
“We don’t need to know the people,” Heller said. “We just drive around and look for some people who look like they could use our help.”
Other homes include those of veterans, widows and cancer patients.
Twelve-year-old Emma Zickafoose of Wichita volunteered to join Wichita Work Camp because she wanted to serve others.
“It feels good,” she said as she scraped the home in 85-degree weather. “A bit sweaty, but still good.”
Volunteers work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each of the four days with a 45-minute lunch break. They then have optional recreation activities in the afternoon and dinner, a devotional and guest speaker each evening.
“It’s different, the work we’re doing here,” said Jenni Jones, 20-year-old intern for Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond, “but it feels good knowing this family is super in need of something like this and that we are able to help them out.”