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“Work Camp” teens learn valuable construction skills helping Caroline people in need

Posted on Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm

ramp 1Phyllis Washington of Caroline County suffers from muscular dystrophy and the rickety wooden steps to her front door were making it more dangerous than ever for her to come and go from her house. Her job as a receptionist at Goodwill Industries in Fredericksburg helps with expenses, but the cost of a proper new entrance was prohibitive.

Fortunately for her, a friend at work passed word of her dilemma to the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Teen WorkCamp.

From June 25 through July 1 more than 850 teens from throughout the Diocese served others in need in six Virginia counties, including Caroline. Of this year’s 170 projects, Washington’s was one of the needs that made the list.

“My step was in bad condition,” she said. “When the gentleman from the program came to measure for the ramp, he was coming up the step and the railing came off in his hand.”

Crews are made up of five teen volunteers, all from different churches, as well as an adult leader and a contractor who knows how to do the necessary work. Two crews worked on Washington’s project.

“The kids don’t just volunteer their time, they also raise the money necessary to pay for the projects,” said David Bristow, one of the adult crew leaders. “They go to the people most in need in their own backyards and they don’t have to be Catholic.”

One of the tasks for this year was to build a wheelchair ramp for a United Pentecostal Church. Work in the program also includes other needs, such as roofing repairs, painting, flooring and plumbing.

Leaders say the teens not only learn to do new tasks, they also gain confidence that helps in taking on other new challenges.

“I learned how to mix cement. I’ve put in windows, cut wood, and I’ve used a bunch of power tools that I never used to be comfortable with,” said Genna Davis of Winchester, as she was putting decking on Washington’s new ramp.

“I can use these skills to help my dad, he is very do-it-yourself,” said Vela McBride. “The contractors of this crew are very good, as they should be, they have high expectations of us and they expect us to meet them, and we’re glad to.”

“I feel like we have to do this well,” said Elizabeth Dudas. “Ms. Washington is going to use this for the rest of her life.”

“I’m not a person to just ask for things or look for a handout. My friend said I really needed a new deck and a true need is something to accept and be grateful for,” Washington said.

“One of the young ladies told me this deck was made with love, and I can feel it. This is beyond what I prayed for, beyond what I imagined they would do for me,” she said. “This morning I stood at the door looking at it and just cried.”

“In loving our neighbor, we love Christ,” said Bishop Paul Loverde. “WorkCamp is a profound, life-changing moment for so many teens, as they encounter Christ in their service to those with significant material needs.”