Thunder rolled and rain poured Monday morning on Mattie Jerrell’s Jackson Avenue home, but no matter.
The 91-year-old woman beamed through the dreary weather on the porch of her weathered, white house, and declared the day “a blessing.”
Mayor-President Kip Holden, along with Jerrell, and about a dozen teen volunteers with paint-smudged faces crowded onto the porch to stay dry and announce an effort by volunteers and the city-parish to clean up blighted homes and lots in the Fairfield area.
Up until the rain fell, volunteers from the World Changers volunteer program spent the early morning applying a fresh coat of white paint to Jerrell’s home.
World Changers is sponsored by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and encourages students to travel out of their home states to volunteer in at-risk and blighted neighborhoods.
About 170 volunteers are in Baton Rouge this week from New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.
Holden thanked the group of volunteers who pay their own way to participate in the program.
“This is the ninth year we have welcomed this great group of young people to our city to help make a difference in the lives of those who need a little help maintaining their homes,” Holden said.
The volunteers of students, grades 7 through 12, provide the muscle, while the city-parish gives paint and materials through a federal grant for disadvantaged homeowners.
Brittany Starr, 16, traveled from Magnolia, Ark., to participate in the volunteer program.
“It’s going really good,” she said. “We’re meeting people, and we’re helping people.”
The World Changers’ mission is in line with Holden’s Operation Restore Pride program established in 2006.
Holden said while the volunteers are painting and making minor repairs in ceilings, roofs and floors for homeowners, city-parish workers will be clearing overgrown lots and removing abandoned vehicles in the area.
Fairfield is generally bounded by Fairfield Avenue to the south, Choctaw Drive to the north, Plank Road to the west and North Ardenwood Drive to east.
The city-parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control Department will be spraying for pests and giving tips to residents on how to eliminate them, the mayor said.
The city-parish Animal Control Center will offer residents safety education and city firefighters will check smoke detectors, Holden said.
Jeanie Bastin, a Baton Rouge volunteer who supervises the World Changers coming in from out of state, has participated in the program for five years.
“It’s kind of nice because the people take such pride in their property and it also makes the community look good,” Bastin said. “It make Baton Rouge overall look good.”