Three heart attacks within a couple of months left U.S. Navy veteran Ron Whitting unable to do much for himself. He wondered how he could ever afford the much-needed repairs on his wood-framed house in Tyler.

The 59-year-old said his health deteriorated quickly and things he had put off soon became impossible to complete.

But a program aimed at providing Christian youth with the opportunity to serve through weeklong work camps answered Whitting's prayers.

Ross Felder, United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth (UMARMY) team leader, said his group of teens from the Kingwood area who worked to make the repairs to Whitting's home were living out the UMARMY's mission "to serve people in need and promote spiritual growth and leadership development in youth."

"The client's health has been deteriorating, and (he) can't get around very well anymore, so we are building a wheelchair ramp for him," Mike O'Shea, another adult supervisor, said.

O'Shea said the team had repaired Whitting's roof, painted the house and also was repairing a bathroom shower area.

Felder said the youths are working during the day but having activities each evening with them nights.

"So we work all day and we party all night," he said to a round of laughter from the teens.

The group was housed at the Lane's Chapel United Methodist Church on Old Jacksonville.

Sydney Fletcher, 17, from Kingwood, said she enjoyed working on the project.

"It's fun. Painting is kind of tiring, but it's relaxing. The ladder is kind of scary, but it's fun," she said as she painted the side of the home.

Whitting who served in the Navy from 1976 to 1979 said the team was a godsend for him.

"These kids have been great. They are out there just working, working and working. They had a list of things they were going to do, but while they were on my roof cleaning off branches, they found where one actually put a hole in my roof, so they fixed that and it wasn't even on the list," he said.

The group said there are two camps each year and different teams were working in the area on other veterans' homes.

Whitting said he was approached through his case worker with the Veteran's Administration, and he was put in touch with the representatives for the UMARMY.

"It's a blessing to have friends you didn't know you had. Since I don't have any family left, without these folks, I couldn't have got it done," he said tearing up.

Twitter: @KenDeanofTyler

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