Youth attend volunteer camp to serve those in need

A little hard work goes a long way.

This summer, youth in grades eight through 12 from St. Joseph the Worker Parish traveled to Virginia Beach to do work for those in need with the Catholic Heart Work Camp. As part of the program, the kids painted houses, did yard work and visited with the elderly.

The St. Joseph team traveled together and stayed in the same high school during their week-long trip, but were divided during work hours. Each person was put into a team with young volunteers from other areas of the country.

Rebecca Helminiak had the opportunity to work with People In Need ministry, a group that does outreach with homeless people in the Virginia Beach area. She worked in a house that the ministry sets up to help get families off the streets.

“It was a good experience to see the homelessness firsthand and getting to know those people personally,” she said.

Attending the camp allowed for a unique form of fellowship. The volunteers on the trip got to mingle with other young people while serving those in the Virginia Beach area. For the kids, it was a chance to understand different culture within their own country and make new friends. Some of the teens from the trip are keeping in touch with new friends they met through the camp.

“It was a great way to get to know people from different places in the country,” Alex Mertes said.

It wasn’t the group’s first volunteer venture. St. Joseph the Worker has been participating in Catholic Heart Work Camp for the past five years, according to Jim Foran, the director of religious education.

Foran, who served as a chaperone on the trip, said spiritual growth is a large component of the yearly service venture.

“The purpose for going is to strengthen our faith,” he said.

Besides the volunteer work, the teens did some spiritual growth as well. A religious program was offered at the school during the morning and evening, complete with prayer and music.

The youth also had a free day to spend with each other, which they spent on the beach.

To get to Virginia Beach, the participants had to raise funds to help pay for travel expenses and costs of participating in the camp. This provided another opportunity for fellowship for the teens, who worked together during pancake breakfasts, car washes and a four-hour pie-baking session.

“I smelled like peanut butter for three days,” Helminiak said.

All told, the trip was a positive experience for all involved.

“It’s very rewarding just to know that everything you did … made a difference,” volunteer Kelsey Gantz said.

Other local youth participating in this year’s trip were Lauren Adams, Megan Allison, Eric Budnovitch, Kate Foust, Johanna Hazel, Megan Helminiak, Anna Hillman, Ben Hillman, Samuel Hillman, Terry Hillman, Louise Lovecchio, Christine McFadden, Ashlynn McQuillen, Haylie McQuillen, Sara Musheno, Conner Oldt, Maddy Plummer, Luke Savage, Elizabeth Seagraves, Amanda Southard, Amy Southard, Molly Stone, Ricky Urbina, Casey Weatherwax, Austin Westbrook and David Youmans.

Plans for next year’s camp are in the works.