Lending a hand

Urban Servants organizes teens to help people in need

Do you want your garage painted but just don’t have the strength? Want a ramp laid but lack the funds? Urban Servants might be able to help — for free.

Urban Servants is an outreach camp that organizes teenagers to come into the city and help residents in need. In the Southwest area, residents and organizations have been utilizing this program for more than a decade. 

Many Minneapolis Methodist Churches are involved in this program, including Pastor Bill Morton’s Joyce United Methodist Church at 1219 W. 31st St. in the CARAG neighborhood. “It’s a great program and I want to get the word out about it to residents,” Morton said.

This summer, teens from across the Midwest are attending the weeklong Urban Servants retreat, based in Mound, Minn. The mostly high-school-age students stay at Camp Kingswood there during the night, and are subsequently dispatched around the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas during the day.

The campers do various projects assigned to them by the program’s Job Coordinator, Erika Knight. Most of the work is labor work that clients aren’t able to perform themselves.

Urban Servants began in 1995, and involves teens from all over Minnesota and as far away as Missouri. A new batch of campers comes in every week throughout the summer, and does work for those in need. Most of the teens come with the youth groups of their local churches.

“We work with neighborhood organizations and nonprofits,” Knight said. “We also find homeowners that aren’t able to afford to complete their own projects, and we help them out.” 

The service utilizes organizations such as Hope for the City, and Feed My Children to find projects for the campers to do. The program gives teens from many backgrounds an interactive urban experience.

On June 27, a group of Urban Servants were at 3331 Hennepin Ave., working at CARAG resident Ida Hill’s house for the morning. They were there to pull weeds and generally tidy up the backyard of her house.

Hill found out about the Servants through the Neighborhood Involvement Program Senior division that helps provide low-cost maintenance services to homes in need.

“The [Urban Servants] were courteous, hardworking, helpful, and I was very pleased” she said.

Urban Servant Zach Williamson, from Council Bluffs, Iowa, said the weeklong camp had been a good experience for him. If given the chance, he would participate again in the future, he said.

“It’s fun to help people — you learn a lot,” he said.

Anyone who would like assistance from Urban Servants can call Knight at 232-1255.