- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

PORTIA, Ark. (AP) - Sitting on the kitchen floor, 13-year-old Phoebe Miller slowly pencils a line to mark the width needed of a patterned laminate floor tile before adhering it in the allotted spot.

The Rogers native has never installed floor tiles before, but it is work Miller and three other teens quickly learned as they sought to help repair a hole in a Portia woman’s kitchen floor.

The hole was in the middle of the floor making it hard for the wheelchair-bound woman to get to her refrigerator, back porch or leave her house - the ramp is accessed from the back porch - without her wheelchair getting caught and her falling.

Eventually, the hole was filled and new laminate tiles covered most of the kitchen floor. Rogers said it felt good to be able to help because “if you serve others, you serve God.”

The Jonesboro Sun (http://bit.ly/295mZs6 ) reports that the Ozark Mission Project (OMP) connected the Portia woman with the teens. Started 30 years ago, OMP pairs Arkansas teens with people who are physically or financially unable to maintain their properties.

Miller and Joshua Richardson, 13, of Jonesboro, previously heard others talk about OMP. Miller said she came to meet and bond with others over service work while Richardson just wanted to help.

“This might be another opportunity I have to get closer to God,” he said.

The teens are placed in various communities within the state for a one-week project. According to the OMP website, last summer’s participants served 299 people and finished 509 projects through 22,350 volunteer hours in 24 Arkansas counties.

Rogers is among 54 students and 14 adults staying this week at Cornerstone United Methodist Church to serve 19 clients within Jonesboro and the surrounding area, Michael McMurray, Ozark Mission Project recruiting and logistics director, said.

OMP staff work with different entities in the community to locate people who could use help with minor projects and yard work with the Craighead County Community Foundation’s help with supplies.

Each night the teens and adults are encouraged to share what they saw that day. McMurray recalls a lot of the teens - who are participating in a mission for the time time - saying while it is neat to be able to help others in their community, they have had their eyes opened to the needs of their communities and are learning from the people they serve.

OMP’s mission is to transform lives through worship, fellowship and hands-on missions, McMurray said. The teens are encouraged to get to know the people they serve.

“We also want to transform the lives of the people we work for. We want to build relationships,” he added. “We don’t want to be people who tell you what you need.”

Miller and Richardson have already decided they want to participate again next year. While they initially did not know how to do the work, the teens said they are ready to learn more.

“Our job isn’t too hard,” Miller added. “It’s one of the easier ones - others are building decks. One group is building two porches, front and back, with no shade.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com

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