It's hard to imagine in the current temperatures, but it will seem like Christmas in July next month for the residents of 60 homes in our area.
July 10-16 marks the annual visit of Catholic HEART Workcamp volunteers -- 375 this year from all over the country -- who come to learn teamwork and strengthen their faith while refurbishing houses and yards.
United Way of the Lowcountry locates the homes and does the scheduling, as well as provides materials and skilled volunteers from the community. Bethany Marcinkowski, director of Resource Services for our local United Way, is tasked with assembling everything for this project. She says she still needs more helpers to send out with the teams of adults and teens in July.
"We need local volunteers -- contractors would be great," Marcinkowski said. "With some skilled help and guidance, the kids can do more."
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The teens's work includes exterior painting, replacing rotten wood, doing yard work and clearing trash. Members of the local Knights of Columbus have stepped up to help with carpentry projects such as building and repairing steps and ramps. Again this year Glidden Paint of Hilton Head-Bluffton is donating all the paint for the projects. But more volunteers are needed.
The 60 homes on the list are in communities all over the area, from St. Helena Island to Hilton Head Island to Jasper County. The teams also will work at two United Way of the Lowcountry agencies, the Boys & Girls Club and The Children's Center, where their duties will include helping with the children's activities.
The work camp volunteers arrive July 10, work Monday through Thursday at the various sites and enjoy a "free day" on Friday, when they can experience the beach, kayaking, sailing or shopping before they leave Saturday. They will stay at Hardeeville Middle/High School, where their evenings will be spent on teambuilding and devotional activities; but bedtime comes early after a hard -- and hot -- day's work.
Teens and adults pay for their workcamp experience -- a bit more than $300 each, depending on the location. Apparently they find it worthwhile: Catholic HEART Workcamp has grown from 100 participants in 1993 to 11,000 last year. Students entering the eighth grade in the fall can go to a workcamp that summer (and a few are open to rising seventh-graders). The other requirement is that participants be "serious about serving others."
The program was founded in 1993 by Steve and Lisa Walker when they were youth ministers at St. Margaret Mary Church in Winter Park, Fla. Both had participated in non-denominational workcamps and decided they wanted to start one with Catholic spirituality and perspective. This summer, workcamp volunteers will help out in 31 states and Jamaica.