Airmen and women from the United States Air Force stack cinder blocks that will eventually form the foundation of a new home in the Shoal Creek Valley. The group volunteered alongside the youth from Extreme Ministries during the group’s rebuild project.

For some, summer vacation is a time of rest, relaxation and spending time in the sun with friends. For others, it’s a time to earn some extra spending money.

But for dozens of St. Clair County students, it’s been a time to serve their community in the wake of devastating storms.

Dozens of volunteers joined Extreme Ministries, the youth ministry at First Baptist Church of Pell City, for their Mission Trip to St. Clair County, which began its three-week run last week.

For the volunteers, it was anything but a vacation. The students work 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, doing anything and everything needed to repair and restore homes damaged in the April 27 storms.

“This week, I made the inside rooms of a house, we made the outside walls, the floor joists, and worked with building dirt,” said Loren McCay, 19, who graduated from Leeds High School last month.

As the students tore off shingles, laid sheetrock, hauled materials and hammered to their heart’s content, they also took time to listen to the stories of the people they were helping, and to share their own personal faith with them.

Students toted tracts and invited locals to partake in their worship service, held every night at 7 p.m. at Ragland High School during the project.

“I knew that I wanted to be part of something bigger, and I knew if people saw me playing a Christian example, it would speak louder than words would. I was hoping this week to plant the seed, and that’s what really had my heart on fire to do this,” McCay said.

“It’s amazing to see how God works and I really enjoy helping people. It’s addicting,” said Tyler Durbin, a 16-year-old St. Clair County High junior. “I love it. There isn’t anything I’d rather be doing. I would stay longer; to me, this is way better than sitting on the beach.”

For 17-year-old Preston Miller, it wasn’t a sacrifice of vacation time either, but business as usual.

“I work outside with my dad fixing houses and stuff like this already, so I decided to do the same thing, but instead of getting, paid to do it for the kingdom of God,” he said.  

But through the sweat, muscle aches and frustration, dozens students learned about themselves and the gesture of lending a helping hand to those in need.

“It really showed me how this benefitted others. I learned a lot about myself, and how blessed I was, and how fulfilling it was to bless someone else,” McCay said. “It was an awesome experience, and it was almost like we weren’t just doing it for them, but so that people could come to Christ.”

“It feels really good to help out. These people are in need. We could be doing something else, but it feels really great to help,” Miller said.

Extreme Ministries continues to run the weeklong program this week and next. To volunteer, call First Baptist Church of Pell City at 205-338-9444. To request project help, call 205-594-5173. Volunteers of all kinds, including plumbers, carpenters, electricians, roofers and other skilled laborers are needed.

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