TAKE A LOOK — Student volunteers return to Port Arthur to help those with storm-damaged homes

Published 12:40 am Thursday, June 15, 2023

Twenty students and eight adults from Kingwood spent all of Wednesday in the Port Arthur sun, but they weren’t here to take advantage of the beaches or birding like a typical summer trip.

The group from Kingwood First Baptist Church represents a portion of approximately 200 volunteers from all over Texas volunteering with Bounce Student Disaster Recovery to do repairs on storm-damaged homes in Port Arthur, Beaumont and Winnie.

“I think it just speaks to their commitment to Christ and to one another,” said Caleb Bowman. “To be willing to say, ‘OK, we’re going to see the impact that this is going to have on people.’ That’s what Jesus taught was to love one another — love the Lord first and then love your neighbor as yourself, and that’s what these students are out here doing.

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“They recognize the importance of impacting people, and they see that neighbor doesn’t just mean people that you know. It means people who are in need and don’t even know they’re in need sometimes.”

But the homeowner in the 3700 block of 39th Street knew he was in need of assistance. He inherited the house in 2019 when his father died from COVID-19.

“He has been slowly trying to patch things up,” said Phillip Boedeker, one of two team leaders. “He said every time it rains, they get water inside the house. So he’s exceedingly happy about seeing rain in the forecast and knowing there won’t be water in his house.”

Boedeker said Bounce had two teams on site consisting of 20 students and six adult volunteers. Arriving at 7 a.m. Tuesday with an intention of completing Friday afternoon, one team is working on the roof while the other works on the ground.

“The roof crew is stripping all of the old shingles, stripping all of the old roofing materials; and then is going to patch holes and anything like that,” he said. “The ground crew — they’re reframing, they’re putting on the new paneling. We’re going to repaint the whole house. They’re doing a lot of work.”

The students range from sixth grade up.

Emerson Walker, 15, said this was her third mission trip with Bounce. For her, the enjoyment comes from meeting the homeowners, learning new projects and working with new people.

“It’s really uplifting to everyone around you, and it’s a great community,” she said.

This is the third time in the last year Bounce has sent volunteer teams to repair houses in Southeast Texas. The group operates through Texas Baptist Men. While in the area, the volunteers are housed at First Baptist Church in Nederland.

“This generation cares and wants to help,” Bowman said. “That’s one thing we believe in Bounce — even in sixth grade, with students through 12th grade, they’re ready for challenges. They’re ready for hard work, even in the heat.”