Lee County High School club goes to work with Adopt a Home

Mar. 23, 2013 @ 09:00 PM

It can be hard for a teenager to wake up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to do yard work, but more than a dozen broke that stereotype this Saturday, helping clean and update the yard of a local woman going through tough times.

Led by Jared Abell, a senior at Lee County High School and vice president of the school's Skills USA chapter, a group of about 20 students and teachers from that club came out to work — rake leaves, plant flowers, prune bushes, replace rotting landscaping timbers and even kill a few copperhead snakes — for Mamie Wilson, an elderly woman who lives on Spring Lane.

Abell was led to Wilson by Steve Hazlewood, a deacon at Cool Springs Baptist Church. Wilson has back problems and her husband has been suffering his own health issues lately, and after her only son died last August, she said, no one has been able to clean up the yard. Hazlewood told Abell about the potential to help her out, so the teen got the group to come out and lend a hand.

"You could tell (the yard) needed some work, but I was reluctant at first," Wilson said Saturday, peering out of her house to monitor the progress. "But I knew Deacon Hazlewood and trusted him, and he said these boys would be alright. ... My son used to do all my yard work, but he passed away — I miss him terribly."

Abell calls his project Adopt a Home, saying the idea is to find houses in the community in need of care and give them love and attention, just like people do for adopted children. He said he's hoping to get the project going strong enough that when he leaves in the fall — he has an Air Force ROTC scholarship to N.C. State University, where he plans to study computer engineering — the project lives on in Sanford.

"You have dreams, and I've been able to live them out," said Abell, the son of Dennis and Shirley Abell. "... Being able to take my idea from a vision to reality is just very exciting."

Abell came up with three overarching goals for the project, which he summed up in three words: utilize, impact, excite.

He wants to utilize the resources from Skills USA — a vocational club at the school that has about 30 students who specialize in carpentry, electronics and other skills — in order to impact homeowners who are otherwise overwhelmed by the work that needs doing. Finally, he said, he wants to excite the community and "inspire an attitude of service."

Quinlan Henry, a carpentry teacher at Lee County who leads the school's Skills USA chapter, said he and other adult leaders set up a collaboration between the club and Habitat for Humanity in the fall, but that this project is entirely Abell's doing — although Abell said he did get some much-needed help and donations from Lowe's Home Improvement.

"I'm not going to take any credit on this," Henry said while taking a break from raking leaves. "Jared set it all up, thought it all up, himself. I didn't even ask a single kid to come out today. It was all him."

Abell said that in addition to helping people out and getting more community members thinking about service, he's also hoping for an individual accolade: having Adopt a Home recognized at the statewide Skills USA conference this April as the best project in the state. If he wins that, he said, he'll get to go to the national conference in Kansas City, Mo. According to its website, it's a week-long affair consisting of contests in technical skill, public speaking and leadership, job and trade fairs, meetings and entertainment, plus a keynote speaker — which in the past has included the likes of President Ronald Reagan, Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, famed test pilot General Chuck Yeager and Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell.