Hundreds of volunteers aim to help residents with home repair

From staff reports

MIFFLINTOWN – As many as 70 local residents will benefit from the work of a projected 400 adult and teenage volunteers at the Juniata County Workcamp, coming June 22 28, 2014, to Mifflintown. The Workcamp will provide free home repairs through the Group Cares program, sponsored locally by St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Licking Creek Valley.

Group Cares is a non-profit interdenominational Christian volunteer home-repair organization headquartered in Loveland, Colo. This summer, an anticipated 25,000 young people and adults will participate in 46 workcamps in communities across the United States and Canada.

At each workcamp, teenagers and adults – all members of church youth groups – volunteer a week of their time to repair homes in the community.

“These really are remarkable young people,” said Jeff Thompson, of Group Cares. “Each one is actually paying for the privilege of working in your community. Workcamp registration fees are used to cover our costs for food, insurance and building materials.”

The workcamp will be housed at Juniata High School, with volunteers sleeping on classroom floors, eating in the cafeteria and enjoying evening programs in the gym. Group Cares will reimburse all costs to the lodging facility.

Youth and adults from St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church have been attending Group Workcamps since 2000. Juniata County native and local coordinator, Kathy Whitesel, has been a participant in each of the 10 workcamps over the last 13 years and has had a desire to bring such an event to Juniata County for several years.

“This represents about 12,000 hours of volunteer labor, with a total economic impact to the community of over $300,000,” she said.

The idea behind workcamps stated in Colorado in 1977 when residents suffered from the Big Thomson River flood, in which hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed and over 140 people lost their lives. Church youth groups of many different denominations came from across the country the next summer to help.

In 1978, the program went nationwide to include other disadvantaged areas throughout the country. This summer’s 46 workcamps will take place in many different states, including Wisconsin, West Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, New York, Tennessee, Nebraska, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Missouri, Virginia, South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas and Oklahoma. Now in its 35th year of service, Group Cares has hosted over a quarter of a million participants who have provided more than 6 million hours of volunteer service directly to people in need. Repairs offered through the workcamp include interior and exterior painting, porch and wheelchair ramp construction, weatherization and more. Residents interested in applying to receive assistance may contact St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church at 436-6989.