Niko Touloumes was planning on using some of his summer break to do a service project, but he never thought the project would change his perspective on those in need.
Touloumes was one of 18 youth from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Christian Church in Pittsburgh who participated in the June Appalachia service trip, a ministry of FOCUS North America. The group of middle school and high school students were joined by six adult leaders.
The goal of these short term ministry trips is to build a sense of service and community by providing an opportunity for church groups to travel together, work together, serve together and grow together. Projects include home repair, landscaping, and various domestic projects for the poor living in the heart of the Appalachian region. In some parts of the Appalachian region of NC where the FOCUS NA teams serve there is an almost 20% unemployment rate.
“I was expecting to come down and help people, not necessarily interact with them,” Touloumes said. “But I came here and found out why they’re in these situations.”
The teens and their adult leaders worked hard and always had a great attitude as they worked on graveling a driveway, painting a garage, removing a rotting deck, painting the interior of a house, moving heavy furniture and various landscaping projects.
The working poor families served by these groups are always very grateful for the help, Niko Petrogeorge, FOCUS North America ministry team intern, said.
“We painted the inside of an elderly couple’s home,” Petrogeorge said. “Mr. Upright was very appreciative of our work and wanted to help us." We got him started on something he wouldn’t have been able to do on his own and provided the resources and materials for the project.”