More than 100 teenagers and their adult leaders rode roughly 14 hours on chartered buses this week to help Jackson County and other communities in the region recover from Hurricane Michael.
They’ve been here since Sunday, and will head out today for Georgia and more service days there.
The REFUGE youth team is from the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, Missouri.
After Cooper Feeler and five buddies on his team put in a long day of work Tuesday, they took an early dinner break at Sonny’s in Marianna.
Feeler said they’d spent the morning and early afternoon helping rebuild houses and cleaning up debris. They hammered nails, mowed grass, gathered storm debris and more as they labored on their yearly mission trip. They had one scheduled day of rest and relaxation-that was to come in the form of a beach trip the next day.
Although they were looking forward to that, Feeler said, they were also happy to put muscle to the mission.
“We go to places where it’s hard for people to get everything done after a natural disaster,” Feeler said, adding that adult leadership chose this disaster for the annual project. He and others at his table Tuesday had watched news reports of the hurricane and were eager to make the long trip here. It’s their first such project in Florida, he said.
Staying at a hotel in Marianna, they start work shortly after 7:30 a.m. each morning, have a lunch prepared by their leaders on the work site, and then finish up with another round of labor.
The full team is made up of girls and boys in grades seven through 12. The split in to about 10 work groups so they can spread the help around. “We’ve gotten a lot of work done, and it’s been fun,” Feeler said. “We’ve gotten rid of trees that had fallen on houses, we’ve been cutting a lot of weeds, hammering nails, mowing, just whatever we could. It feels good to help.”
Youth leaders include adults Melissa Hatfield and Rod Maples, among others.