Big City Teens Find Compassion Volunteering In Small Town

More than 60 teenagers from the outskirts of Chicago are spending their spring break in Biloxi. They're helping fix up the homes of the less fortunate. The big city kids say they're learning life lessons here in South Mississippi.

At first the task seemed overwhelming.

"I didn't know what to do," said Jessica Daniels. "I didn't know where to start."

However, once the teenagers got to work fixing up the Howard Avenue home, it felt less like hard labor and more like being a good neighbor.

"These people have nothing," said Daniels. "Just looking at the little that they have makes me feel that I should not sweat the small stuff and not always be worrying about everything."

Each spring break, First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois pulls together a mission trip for its youth group. Recruitment is not problem.

"We typically are filled up and we have to find more adults to bring them than we ever have to find kids to go," said advisor Mike Thiessen.

With brushes, hammers and more, the kids fix up a handful of Biloxi houses very different from their own.

Kate Anderson is a high school senior who began making the trip as a freshman.

"We're more sheltered, I guess, in our type of society. So coming out here is a real way to expand your mind and your horizons."

"We come from a pretty rich area and we have more than these people could ever imagine having," said Daniels. "It's really sad to see."

The teens say what's underneath the surface is what matters most. The trip has taught them who they are is shaped by what they do and not by what they own.

Grant Glowiak, 16, said, "It doesn't matter what clothes I'm wearing because I'm going to get paint on them. It doesn't matter who my friends are back home. It doesn't matter how much money I have in the bank or what kind of car my parents drive. It matters how devoted I am to this cause."

The volunteers worked on homes referred to them by Back Bay Mission .