picture by: Janice Kiaski
STEUBENVILLE – Christmas has come early for a Steubenville man who plays St. Nicholas at Steubenville Nutcracker Village.
And it’s thanks to the help of teenagers from across the United States who are in the area this week as part of the Catholic Heart Work Camp.
The 315 participants and adult leaders complete a variety of 90 work projects for those in need, ranging from interior and exterior painting and landscaping to decluttering, cleaning and minor home repairs. In town since Monday, they also interact with children in churches and daycare centers in low-income communities and are involved in food distribution, homeless shelters and outreach centers.
John Miller, long white beard, of Maryland Avenue, is one of the beneficiaries of this evangelistic mission – grateful not only for the physical help, but also for the spiritual uplift and interaction.
“They have good attitudes, they like to work and it feels like they’ve been a part of our neighborhood for a long time,” Miller said of his young assistants who finished their projects on Thursday and are leaving town today. .
This is the second year the program has had a local presence, according to Bobbyjon Bauman, director of the Sycamore Youth Center. He and his wife, Pamela, run the camp in partnership with the Ohio Valley Youth Network and Catholic Central High School.
“I heard about it from a friend in Wisconsin who had his youth group involved, and I was looking to bring a missionary project to Steubenville,” Bauman explained.
The first camp in 2019 attracted 230 youth but could not be scheduled for the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Finding people in need of help was an effort that involved connecting with social agencies, advertising in church bulletins and using social media.
“We will help just about everyone who signed up to get help, and we try to help those who signed up first and need it the most first,” Bauman noted.
“Students do interior and exterior painting, landscaping, decluttering, cleaning the interior and exterior of homes, and minor repairs such as putting up railings and repairing partitions dry,” he said.
Catholic Central’s classrooms are where young people sleep, and the cafeteria is where they eat their meals — arrangements that don’t involve a small business.
Feedback from owners has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Bauman.
“They commented on how the kids were very nice to them and worked extremely hard and were blown away that they actually paid to come and work in a different state than they lived in to help people they were living in. they didn’t know. who were in need,” Bauman said.
Catholic Heart Work Camp began in 1993 in Orlando, Florida with 100 campers. Since then, the program has grown to include more than 13,000 campers in 50 cities across the country and several international camps. There are approximately 35 summer camps throughout the United States.
“We’re one of the bigger ones, but they usually have over 200 kids per camp,” he said, citing the camp’s purpose as twofold – it gives teens a chance to serve and give back. to the community and gives them the opportunity to live their faith.
A work crew at Miller’s house on Wednesday spoke about their involvement during a water break.
Adult leader Brad Stark explained that the group was doing landscaping, pulling bushes, tilling the ground, planting grass seeds and painting.
“They give you a list, a work order, and basically you go in there and fill out the work order, but you also sit down and talk with the residents – you try to spread faith and joy and joy” , explained Stark, a resident. of Edgerton, Ohio. “It’s not just about work. We go back (to Catholic Central) and they have all kinds of activities for kids, fun stuff, and then it’s time for praise and worship and things like that.
The students get up at 6:15 a.m., have breakfast, attend mass and arrive at their sites at 9 a.m.
“We work until about 2:30 or 3:00 p.m., start cleaning and come home and have lunch, free time, and then they have what they call a program, and that’s for the kids. There are spiritual messages and there are also fun times, like a dance party,” Stark continued.
On his third mission outing with Catholic Heart Work Camp, Samuel Kightlinger of Erie, Pennsylvania explained what motivates his involvement.
“I really like to see the change,” he said. “When we first got here it felt a bit overwhelming, but once you really start to get into it it becomes a lot easier because you get into that mindset of a one little thing at a time, and I think seeing the changes overall is great,” Kightlinger said.
This is a first experience for Zach Deters from Quincy, Illinois.
“I’m glad I came,” Deters said. “It’s nice to see all the things you can do and see people’s faces when you finish the jobs.”
Samantha Zank, who is also from Erie, offered to see what living conditions are like away from home for the more than 300 teenage and adult supervisors.
“If you bring an air mattress you can sleep on it, but otherwise you sleep on the hard tile floor,” she said of the classrooms that have been turned into bedrooms.
“The girls have the top floor and the boys the bottom, then you have about an hour to shower. They wake you up every morning at 6:15 a.m., running down the hall screaming, so it’s always fun,” she laughed.
This is Zank’s third year at the labor camp.
Sophia Chiaravalli from Vermont is new to outreach.
“I really enjoyed the community service – only the conversations we were able to have with the residents were really rewarding,” said the 16-year-old.
Miller had the help of Catholic Heart Work Camp volunteers three years ago and appreciates the repeated help.
“I tried to find someone else to help me. I can’t do a lot of things myself,” he said. “I pay a child once in a while to help me, but it costs me too much to try to hire someone to do all this.
“It’s a blessing – Christmas in July, only in June,” he laughed.
Such a program has great value, he said.
“I’m sure there are other communities that benefit as well besides ours because they have groups that travel all over the country doing this, which I think is great. It’s great that young people are ready to do this,” Miller said.
Community Day will be observed at 7 p.m. today at CCHS, according to Bauman.
“Residents of the homes the students worked on will come to a celebratory event where they will share what the experience meant to them,” Bauman said.