Volunteers Transform The Lives Of Philadelphia Homeowners - myfoxcarolinas.com

Volunteers Transform The Lives Of Philadelphia Homeowners

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PHILADELPHIA - We've all seen them, houses on dozens of city blocks that look like they're falling apart.

A group of volunteers is setting out to change that, all while making a difference in the homeowners' lives.

FOX 29's Drew Dickman takes a look at the effort to transform the city they serve.

Getting in and out of his Germantown home of 20 years used to be such a struggle for double amputee, Sylvester West.

“I had a hard time, making doctors' appointments or just getting out,” said West.

An infection from a stubbed toe and a lack of blood flow to let it heal, cost West a leg in 2009. Three years later he lost his other one.

Last summer, the Philadelphia Project built a walkway and installed this lift, to make his life easier. 

“It gives me a sense of freedom. I can go where I want to go; I'm not confined in the house," he said.

Not only did the volunteers build a new homefront, but something West says is just as rewarding.

“I became like a family with them. I have no children of my own and they sort of like become, I'm not saying my age, like grandchildren,” said West.

Philadelphia Project Founder Raymond Garcia says that's what he had in mind when they started the program.

“We're just trying to find ways to say because Christ has loved us, we're called by God to love others,” said Garcia.

While most teens spend the summer at the beach or just hanging out with friends, hundreds of volunteers have been rehabbing houses.

In fact, the Philadelphia Project has helped renovate more than 40 homes in the city in the five years they've been serving the community.

The organization is directly connected to Roxborough Presbyterian Church.

Garcia says they find candidates by word of mouth and look to help single parents, low income, and elderly families in the Northwest section of Philly.

“Our heart for single parents comes from the heart that I, the story that I came from. Wishing that the church was able to at that time put an arm around my mom and be a part of her story more,” said Garcia.

The mission is also personal for Jahlil Davis-Green, who grew up in Kensington.

“We walk past these houses that we see that we can tell need work or need help, but we don't think about the stories that go behind it,” said Green.

He's seen the impact their effort has on the city.

“When we're here and doing all the work we're doing, we're literally someone's answered prayer,” said Green.

The volunteers' ages range from middle school to college.

80% of them come from the suburbs of Philadelphia.

The commitment lasts 18 months, with repairs taking place over the course of time.

This is the third summer 14-year-old Joe Carissimi has been a part of these home improvements projects.

The incoming freshman at St. Joe's Prep says it feels great to serve the community.

“ I mean no matter what the work that you're doing or the price of it physically, it's all worth it to be able to know that you helped people and be able to see their faces when you show them the work that you've done,” said Carissimi.

The work continued this summer inside the West home, as volunteers installed a brand new backsplash in his improved kitchen.

West says their hard work is much more powerful than a little elbow grease.

“You look at the news and you see young people and you don't see a lot of good things that they do, but to see a group of young people who are willing to go out and volunteer, and to do that it gives you hope,” said West.

The Philadelphia Project works year round, but really picks up their workload in the summer.

Organizers expect around 1000 volunteers by years end.

For more information, please visit http://www.thephiladelphiaproject.com/

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