The thick, normally quiet air of a summer afternoon in Walterboro has been overtaken by the sounds of hammers and drills this week.

A group of 185 volunteers from across the country arrived in Walterboro Monday to work on a variety of projects, ranging from painting houses to re-shingling roofs to building handicap ramps for homeowners in need.

“The physical work is important, but we’re also trying to give them hope,” said John Barnes, who is the project coordinator for the work in Walterboro. Barnes also is a Colleton County School Board member.

The volunteers are with a group known as World Changers, an initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources. The group has had a presence in Walterboro since 2008.

Wednesday afternoon, two of the 19 volunteer crews were working at the home of Troy McWilliams, who retired from the athletic department at Colleton County High School in 2007.

McWilliams needs a knee replacement, and eventually will need operations on both of his ankles. He was thankful for the volunteers’ efforts to give him a wheelchair ramp.

“It really touches my heart to see young kids, who have to pay to work, come out and work,” he said.

“The kids working here just met,” McWilliams said, “but it seems like they already knew each other.”

The volunteers are staying at Colleton County Middle School and had to pay $250 to volunteer with the project, one of 90 scheduled World Changers projects in 85 cities across the country this summer.

Alyse Malavasi, the communications specialist for the efforts in Walterboro, has been on multiple World Changers trips since her first mission during seventh grade. She said the toughest part of working on homes isn’t the heat or the labor, it’s the hours.

“The hardest part is getting up at 5:30 every morning,” she said.

Sleeping on cots or air mattresses and living at a local school is surprisingly easy, according to Malavasi.

“You’re so tired, sleeping on an air mattress doesn’t even matter,” she said. “Carrying a shower caddy back-and-forth to the shower gets annoying though.”

The work ended earlier than usual Wednesday afternoon as the volunteer crews prepared for a block party at the First Baptist Church of Walterboro. The party was a collaborative effort with other churches in the area, supporting local businesses and the city of Walterboro.

The party served as a way to “bring the community together – all churches and all races,” said Barnes.

Mike Wallace, a visiting project coordinator from another World Changers mission, said he hopes the volunteer work in Walterboro allows the mission’s efforts to grow even further.

“A week like this will change a community this size,” he said.

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