On Wednesday morning, 57 visitors, mostly teenagers, divided themselves into six teams and headed to various homes in Graham to work under the hot sun for no pay, just as they had done the previous two days, and just as they would do for the next two days.
“If you were to advertise this job you would say, ‘Allright, here is what I want you to do. I want you to give up a week of your summer. I want you to come work in one of the hottest months of the year for 40 hours a week, straight labor. I want you to pay money to come. And I want you to sign up now,'” mission trip leader Todd Treat said. “What teenager signs up for that? Kids get such a bad reputation sometimes for being selfish and not caring about others, and you see the good of teenagers in these trips. It's neat.”
The visitors were on a mission trip from Genesis United Methodist Church, GUMC, in Fort Worth. A former Graham resident, Treat administrated the trip. Their goal: To help fix up 23 homes identified mainly by City of Graham Code Enforcement Officer Robert San Miguel.
“The ones that I identified are from residents that I had met in the past that had code enforcement issues, and I just remember the ones that were in need, elderly or disabled, and I went from there,” San Miguel said. “I don't think any of them were close to being condemned, but the Genesis group, they really came in and did a lot of home improvements that needed to be done.”
Pat Parker, 68, and her granddaughter Lilly's home needed much attention; jobs Parker couldn't do herself or afford to hire out. A past ice storm ruined the wood under her home's awning, allowing water in. A ramp to her front door made of thin plywood distorted and bent as she walked on it. That's just a sample of needed repairs.
“Well, nobody has ever offered to help me do anything before,” Parker said. “I don't know how to say thank you properly. I don't have words for a proper thank you.”
According to Treat, the young volunteers have been able to clear 13 trailer loads of “random stuff” from homes in the area. Mayor Jack Graham formally thanked the group from GUMC at the city council's Thursday morning meeting.
“It's a good blending of the public and private sector to help people out,” said City Manager David Casteel.
This week, 23 homes were helped this week, but more need it.
Code enforcement has been a bit of an uphill battle for San Miguel. The officer who held the post before him fell ill and was unable to work for the two years prior to San Miguel taking over 18 months ago, he said.
“It's job security,” joked the officer in front of a dilapidated trailer home off Pecan Street he had condemned earlier that day.
Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.