By Danielle Turner
Who are these "World Changers" you see working on the streets of our city? Coming from all over the country, this group of students gathers in Philadelphia to serve the community around us. We strap on our nail aprons, slip on our work gloves, and go full tilt for an entire week, working long and laborious hours in the heat. Scraping paint, stripping off a porch to replace it with another, and laying floor are just a few of the many volunteer activities of a typical World Changer. World Changers are anything but typical, however. Working in partnership with The Salvation Army, our goal is to transform sections of North Philadelphia through service and faith.
Staying at New Covenant Church on Germantown Avenue for a week, we work during the day and regroup in the evenings to share our experiences and worship together. We sleep on air mattresses or bunk beds, yet begin each day with more energy than guests staying at a luxury hotel. Our trip comes with costs. World Changers pay to volunteer, contributing our own money towards transportation, food and lodging. Essentially, we pay to give up a week of summer vacation - and we do it willingly. The World Changers have found a perfect partner in The Salvation Army; we both share a strong commitment to service in the community and an even stronger sense of faith in God.
Personally, World Changers has been a part of my life since I was 11 years old. My parents were involved with its inception in 1990 and have remained active ever since. We practice the philosophy that serving God is important, but serving God by giving to others is even more so. I have worked on so many projects in so many cities that I have lost track. Working alongside my family is incredible; it provides a place for us to be together and bless others by what God has given us.
The benefits of our service projects have taken on many forms. We reap the spiritual rewards when we see the gratitude of those we serve... senior citizens with tears in their eyes, getting hugs from those living in poverty, and hearing little children shout, "Thank you!" These simple actions show me that God is involved.
In Philadelphia, where I have spent the past six summers volunteering, the World Changers have been blessed with the support and guidance of The Salvation Army. They have helped in countless ways identifying projects, donors, housing, and churches within the community. People within the organization give unselfishly of their talents and abilities. This is our sixth year in Philadelphia and we will continue to come back for many more to come.
On a personal note, I am thrilled to have to the opportunity to work at The Army's District Headquarters for the summer and to see first-hand how many lives they touch. As an intern, I have been given the responsibility of helping to organize this year's volunteer activities for the World Changers. There are more than 60 projects spanning Allegheny West, Strawberry Mansion, Deacon Street, and Germantown. As a Southerner, I have adjusted to the faster pace of Philadelphia and have come to appreciate everything this city has to offer. This experience has enabled me to grow personally, professional and spiritually.
As someone who has deep roots in volunteering, I am thrilled to add a second organization to my service activities. I can volunteer with my family through the World Changers during the summer, and I can now volunteer with The Salvation Army during the rest of the year. Working here this summer has opened my eyes to the myriad of services they provide. They are more than just a ringing bell or a church on the corner. With so many chapters across the country, I can't wait to get more involved with my local Salvation Army in Oklahoma.
Thank you, Philadelphia, for allowing us to work in your neighborhoods and to make a difference in your communities. Thank you, Salvation Army, for providing the World Changers with opportunities to grow in service, fellowship, and faith.
Danielle Turner is a 19-year-old sophomore at Oklahoma Baptist University. She has volunteered as a World Changer in Philadelphia for the past six years and is currently interning for the summer with The Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia.