PAULSBORO, N.J. - Dozens of teenagers from across the country have gathered in south Jersey to put their summer vacation to good use.
Some 200 teens are volunteering in towns like Paulsboro, Woodbury, Pitman and Deptford.
They've each raised $400 to participate in a Reach Mission work camp, a week of service to the community.
The kids are scraping, painting, weather stripping and doing other repairs for free at the homes of elderly, disabled and the financially struggling.
"I think a lot of people are less fortunate and I just think it's a good idea to get out and help people because, as a community, you have to be there for other people," said Calvin Spiteri of Fairport, New York.
"It really makes you feel good to serve the community and know that you were making a difference in the world. However small that it is, just really making a difference to you and the homeowner," said John Pizzuto-Pomaco of Woodbury Heights, New Jersey.
The teens are sleeping at Gateway Regional High School in Woodbury Heights and are sponsored locally by Grace Community Church of South Jersey.
Organizers say it's a character-building experience where kids learn not only practical skills...
"But they learn that other people need help and that we as fellow human beings should help them," said Joe Pizzuto-Pomaco of Grace Community.
The Oswald family home in Paulsboro is getting a facelift, something they couldn't afford on their own.
"It's just amazing to have them out here and actually help us fix up the house, because without them we would have still been struggling trying to figure it out," said Emily Oswald.
"Also being able to see the faces of the people you were actually helping and meet them and really hear their story is cool," said Natalie Putnam of Fairport, New York.
Since 1992, when the Reach Mission work camps started, 54,000 kids from all over the country have participated putting in two million hours of volunteer work.
"The homeowner - our neighbors, we call them - is going to be safer and dryer and warmer when they leave. It's real," said Reach Mission founder Mike Jones. "They can feel it."
These teen volunteers do feel it, along with the accomplishment of helping others and knowing they're working hard to make a difference.
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