This week, nearly 350 high school students from all over the country will descend on Beaufort and Jasper counties with tools and paintbrushes, on a mission to fix up homes of the elderly and disabled.
Teenagers with the Catholic HEART Workcamp have been coming to the area each summer for more than a decade to participate in the home-repair project coordinated by United Way of the Lowcountry.
This year that includes 15-year-old Nick Clemens of Chapel Hill, N.C., along with his youth group from Saint Thomas More Catholic Church.
"It's fun to give back a little of what God has given us," Clemens said.
The high schoolers -- some from as far away as Michigan and Louisiana -- will be bunking in classrooms at Hardeeville High School. They were divided into teams of five or six people and received their assignments Sunday afternoon.
From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Thursday, the teams will be beautifying homes and buildings at 55 work sites around the Lowcountry.
While the teens will be mainly performing simple fixes, such as painting and yard work, local contractors have volunteered to help with more complicated projects, such as building wheelchair ramps, according to United Way resource services director Bethany Marcinkowski.
Bluffton Glidden donated about $8,000 worth of paint while nonprofit agencies and local churches provided the list of homes owned by people in need of repairs, workcamp co-manager Maggie McGowan said.
Ray Mitchell, who lives on Wharf Street in Bluffton, said town staff pointed him toward the program. His home will be getting a much-needed coat of paint both inside and out, he said.
"It's great we've got volunteers to lend a helping hand," Mitchell said.
Iona Wilson, who is disabled and lives on Toomer Road on St. Helena Island, said the teens will help repair her sagging back porch, where floorboards are rotting.
She said she is excited to be around the volunteers while they're working. Relationships are often formed between the homeowners and the high school students, Marcinkowski said.
"Sometimes these residents don't have anybody to talk to and these kids are there every day," she said. "They get to know them, joke around with them. Lots of times the residents will cook them a real Southern meal."
Volunteers with Catholic HEART Workcamp mission trips go to about 45 cities all over the country each year. This year, 12,000 volunteers from more than 450 Catholic parishes are involved, according to www.heartworkcamp.com.
"You wouldn't believe the energy these kids have and the compassion in their hearts," Marcinkowski said. "We keep them busy."
Follow staff writer Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.