Group wants to offer ‘change’ but interest has been very slow

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By Alex Wimsatt

    SHEPHERDSVILLE - The Kentucky Baptist Convention has been improving communities all over the state for nearly 17 years with a program that’s shown participants the value and reward of hard work and helping others.

    Kentucky Changers assembles people from four states and sends them to areas across the commonwealth to make exterior repairs to the homes of low-income families.

    On June 12, adolescents and young adults from churches all over the region will descend upon Bullitt County to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, seeking spiritual fulfillment through service in what will be Kentucky Changers' first mission to the area.

    Project Coordinator Joe Ball said he expected hundreds of young people, youth leaders, pastors, construction workers and others to participate in Project Bullitt County.

    Ball said the program benefits young people in many ways, teaching them life skills like home repair, while also helping them grow spiritually.

    “If you learn to replace a roof that’s a skill you’ll have for the rest of your life,” Ball said. “But, most importantly, Kentucky Changers shows them that the world is bigger than they are and it give them a chance to help those who need it. It’s about taking the love you’ve experienced in god and sharing it with others. That’s what it’s really about.”

    Ball said doing things for those less fortunate made participants realize how fortunate they were while showing them that helping others is a daily responsibility.

    “Hopefully they don’t see missions as a  one week thing, but as a lifestyle,” Ball said.

    Ball, who is the director of youth ministry for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has been volunteering with Kentucky Changers since the program began in 1994 with one project in Hopkinsville and fewer than 80 participants.

    He’s seen it grow to 86 projects in 2009 with more than 1,100 participants from 60 churches.

    As a Bullitt Countian, Ball said he was very excited to see his community added to the list this year.

    “We’ve tried every year to get the program in Bullitt County, but we couldn’t get all the pieces together …It’s a God-sized task,” Ball said. “I guess it’s the right time.”

    Ball said local officials like state Rep. Linda Belcher, and Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts have been very supportive of the initiative. In fact, Ball said everything began falling into place for Kentucky Changers Project Bullitt County in the fall of 2008 when Roberts got the ball rolling.

    Roberts said she became interested in the program when Ball’s father spoke to her about it while they were helping boy scouts pick up trash in the north end. Roberts said Joe Ball Sr. had been involved with Kentucky Changers for several years and asked her to get involved.

    “I thought, that sounds like a good program,” Roberts said.

    She started a Kentucky Changers committee last year. Since then she‘s been seeking funding through grants and donations. She’s also collaborated with Bullitt County Public Schools to arrange for participants to stay at Zoneton Middle School while visiting.

    “I’m looking forward to having Kentucky Changers in the county. It’s going to help a lot of people in need. It will not only help improve their homes, it will also help youth understand the importance of helping others and working hard. Programs like this help build character.”

    Roberts said she was looking forward to participating.

    “I plan on grabbing a hammer or paintbrush, driving some nails, doing whatever I can,” she said.

    Kentucky changers is currently looking for homes of low-income families that need repair. Ball anticipated Kentucky Changers would work on 20-30 houses during the nearly week long program.

    “If you get a group of teenagers with a lot of energy you can nail down boards pretty quick,” Ball said.

    Bill Byrum of Clear Fork Baptist Church in Bowling Green has been involved with Kentucky Changers for 10 years, taking groups of youth to project locations every summer since 2000.

    Eight students from Clear Fork will be joining Byrum for Project Bullitt County this summer. Byrum is looking forward to the trip, and he expects it to be an inspiration.

    “The kids get to do something they never would’ve done before and they get a blessing out of it,” Byrum said. “It‘s good to see that.”

    Kentucky Changers will arrive at Zoneton Middle School where participants will stay from Saturday evening, June 12, until they depart the morning of Friday, June 18. Saturday night there will be team building activities to bring participants together, and Sunday morning they will divide into work crews according to factors like age and experience.

    After crews have been formed, participants will attend a local church and have more team building activities to prepare for their projects. First thing Monday morning, they will get to work and continue until Thursday evening at an exhausting pace, stopping only to eat, sleep and worship.

    “The idea is that they pour themselves out physically and hopefully we can fill them up with god,” Ball said.

    Those who would like to be a part of Kentucky Changers Project Bullitt County can register up until June, 12, but participation is on a first come first served basis. Students finished with the seventh grade, high school students and young adults 21 and younger are invited to participate. The program is geared toward adolescents and young adults,

but those over 21are welcome to participate as well. To register for the program or to get more information visit kybaptist.org/kychangers or call (502) 489-3527, toll free 866-489-3527.