WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Painting and cleaning for free? Not the way most kids want to spend their summer, but it's what hundreds of students have come to Wilmington to do, and they're paying their own way.
Four-hundred-fifty students from around the country have dedicated a week of their summer, and they're staying in sleeping bags on the Ashley High School floor to help the elderly and disabled.
"It's so heart-warming to see young people doing good things," said Sylvia Bridges of Wilmington, a recipient of their work.
The high school and college students belong to church youth groups. From Michigan down to Florida, they traveled to the Port City to spend the week fixing up low-income homes.
"Where I live it's pretty nice, and here people aren't as fortunate," Kevin Wheeler of Chicago said. "So it's nice to help out and see how happy they are."
Two organizations, Cape Fear Volunteers and Group Workcamps, coordinated the mission trip called Reach the Beach. The students are paying for the trip out of their own pockets.
"We had car washes, we did market day at the church, we had spaghetti dinners," said Meghan Duffy of Chicago.
Wheeler and his friends are spending the week fixing up Susie Howell's apartment.
"It's probably the most wonderful thing that's happened since I've been in Wilmington," Howell said. "It's great. They want me to do nothing but sit on the front porch and rock in my rocking chair."
Howell says the kids have also been good company.
"Just talking to them makes me feel young, being around them," she said. "And their energy and the kindness."
And they are definitely enjoying themselves.
"We might splash paint on each other every now and then... on accident of course," Jacob Orr of Marysville, MI.
The reward for a job well-done far out weighs that of a paycheck.
"It's just great to see their smiles when we're done," Wheeler said. "You know you finish everything and like how happy they are and like it's just a great feeling to have."
"I'll remember always as I look around at my shiny new walls and my clean apartment how much of a gift they have given me," Kimberley Christensen said.
Aside from a half day off to sightsee, it's been all work and little play for these students, as they participate in about 70 projects around town. They go home Saturday.