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Article Archive >> Featured Topics

Affecting the Lives of Those Helping and Those Being Helped

Affecting the Lives of Those Helping and Those Being Helped
by Joanna Brenner

"There is no way to describe the feeling you get when you see almost 400 teenagers in one room worshipping God," said Pat Barger. "They are there because they want to be."
Antietam Workcamp 2007 is a summer program that takes place from July 22 to July 28 where awe-inspiring volunteers will repair 70 homes in seven days in Williamsport, Hagerstown and Boonsboro areas. Based on the Group Workcamps Foundation, it is a nonprofit organization associated with local churches to host Christian mission trips to provide help to people in need.
Starting on the evening of July 22, volunteers of Antietam Workcamp are split into unfamiliar groups of people. They will work with these individuals throughout the week. Each group is composed of five or six people, each with a different task. Tasks include retrieving lunches and tools, preparing for Bible study, and group coordinator for site repair.
Volunteers will stay at Williamsport High School. Each morning is launched by breakfast and a brief morning prayer service. Then the groups depart for their designated repairing site.
Pat Barger attended the workcamps. She now works with the Antietam Workcamp program committees (hospitality, publicity, and fundraising), making and carrying out various tasks and goals. But it was her daughter, Meghan Wright, who initially got her interested in attending workcamps.
"Three years ago my daughter went to a workcamp in Buffalo, N.Y.," said Barger. "When she came home and was so animated and told of her many experiences and how many new friends she met, I could see it was a great project. The next year, she was unable to attend, but I went as a group leader."
A list of supplies needed to make the repairs is already made up for the groups by the beginning of the week, according to Barger. Everything is bought in bulk and delivered to the houses in the previous week. The groups will leave Williamsport High School around 8am every day, and return between 3 and 3:30pm.
"Everyone is matched with strangers, so as to meet new people," said Barger. "And they will be friends by the end of the first day."
Group Workcamps Foundation has been providing short-term mission trips since 1977. Laura Baldasarre, the publicity committee co-chair for the Antietam Workcamp program, has attended workcamps in Buffalo, N.Y. and Mattawan, Michigan during the summer of 2006.
"Workcamp is such a wonderful experience," said Baldasarre. "It changes your life. The best part of the workcamp is actually doing the work. You make so many new friends and grow much closer to the people in your own youth group."
Group Workcamps began in 1974 with youth leader Thom Schultz, according to Group Workcamps Foundation. He launched GROUP Magazine, a publication with various proposals and suggestions for youth leaders. It was after the flood of a river in Estes Park, Colorado in July of 1976, which destroyed hundreds of houses, that Group Workcamps really got its start. In the following summer, the staff of the magazine recruited church youth groups from across the country to help repair the hundreds of damaged homes.
Group Workcamps Foundation was founded in 1991, according to their website www.groupworkcamps.com. Its mission trips focus on home repair and community service all over the United States as well as abroad.
"Workcamp is an incredible week that really helped strengthen my faith," said publicity co-chair Anna Baldasarre. "I grew closer to my youth group, made new friends and learned so much about God and the value of helping others. I think Antietam Workcamp is going to bring a lot of faith and community service to Washington County."
To make the week possible, the program takes donations from a variety of sources. Churches, local businesses, companies and individuals can make donations directly to the program, according to co-fundraising chair Angie Siever. But it doesn't stop there.
"My daughter, Leah Beachley, found a clever way to donate to the workcamp," said Siever. "In lieu of gifts for her 16th birthday last year, she asked her guests to donate to Antietam Workcamp. Other ways we raised money included fundraisers like the historic church tour at Christmastime, Community Days in partnership with the Bon Ton, inkjet recycling, E-Bay auctions, and a yard sale."
Anyone wishing to make donations to the workcamp can send a check to Antietam Workcamp, c/o St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 18313 Lappans Road, Boonsboro, Md. 21713, according to Siever. The workcamp affects not only the lives of the people being helped, but also those doing the helping.
"There are many things that I really like about the workcamp," said Siever. "Helping those truly in need, the opportunity for youth to experience the joy of helping others, the camaraderie that develops between work crew members and the spiritual growth of those who attend. You cannot help but be changed for the better after experiencing a workcamp week."

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