Washington students spend spring break volunteering in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – College students from Washington state are spending their spring break volunteering in Knoxville as part of the Knoxville Leadership Foundation’s Operation Backyard program.

Fourteen students from Gonzaga University spent the week repairing a home on Emory Road.

“I’m excited they’re putting a new roof on my home,” said the homeowner Kathleen Luttrell.

She said her roof has been leaking water since a storm damaged it last year. Her insurance wasn’t able to help, but that’s where the students came in. They traveled here with the student group Mission Possible, which has worked with Operation Backyard for 12 years.

Fourteen students from Gonzaga University spent the week repairing a home on Emory Road.
Fourteen students from Gonzaga University spent the week repairing a home on Emory Road.

“When I saw that Knoxville was one of the options, I thought it was so cool. I like doing a lot of manual labor and be able to see how my service is helping people,” said volunteer Ari Busch.

“Just being able to help someone else means a lot to all of us,” Cole Fiscus added.

“I’m really happy I’m here for service. I love to help people and I’m really glad I’m spending my spring break this way,” Erin Donley said.

The students built Luttrell a ramp, repaired her roof and painted her foundation. She’s lived in her home for 58 years, and says she wouldn’t be able to get these repairs done without the volunteers.

“It’s wonderful, I can’t believe this,” Luttrell said, adding she feels safer now.

"I'm excited they're putting a new roof on my home," said the homeowner Kathleen Luttrell.
“I’m excited they’re putting a new roof on my home,” said the homeowner Kathleen Luttrell.

“Just being here with Kathleen, talk with her is so amazing. She’s so grateful and it just really makes it worth it,” volunteer Karly Sattler said.

Jay Zartman helps run Operation Backyard. He says the group runs off donations and volunteers provide minor home repairs year round to the elderly and disabled.

“For them they get the satisfaction of making someone’s day, and the homeowner gets the satisfaction of getting a new roof and not having to worry too much and be more hopeful about things,” Zartman said.

More information about the program can be found here, or by calling 524-2774.

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