2001-07-20 / Front Page

23 teens, 4 cYouth groups team up to ’reach’ outhaperones repair homes in Virginia

23 teens, 4 cYouth groups team up to ’reach’ outhaperones repair homes in Virginia

CHRIS KELLY  Alice York of Rumson talks about her experiences with the home building program with Rev. Gregory Bezilla on Sunday.CHRIS KELLY Alice York of Rumson talks about her experiences with the home building program with Rev. Gregory Bezilla on Sunday.

By nicole c. vaccaro

Staff Writer

RUMSON — Most teen-agers spend their summer vacations at the beach, pool club or camp. Some get jobs. But a very special and altruistic few choose to spend a portion of their summer vacation helping those less fortunate than they. On June 24, 23 teen-agers and four adult-chaperones from St. George’s by the River in Rumson and St. James Episcopal Church in Long Branch, left for a weeklong trip to Belle Haven, Va. There they were joined by more than 453 other teens and advisers from across the country to repair, restore and renovate houses in low-income communities.

The Youth Mission Trip is part of a nationwide program called Reach Workcamps and is run through Reach Ministries, an organization based out of Galeton, Colo. Now in its ninth year, the Reach Workcamps program coordinates with local agencies and churches in designated areas to identify those residents in need of help.

Each resident is then visited during the year before camp begins by one of the Reach staff members to look over the home and meet the person whom they will be serving. According to Reach’s Web site, www.reachwc.org, the program’s mission is to "provide a life-changing experience as campers participate in activities that build community and self-esteem, encourages spiritual growth and enables them to understand their role in combating poverty."

A practical goal of the workcamp is to provide residents with warmer, dryer and safer homes. It also strives to restore lost pride and hope in the residents. In many cases, the repair work helps to reduce utility costs. St. George’s has participated in the Reach program for the last five years, according to Jan Glass, the church’s program coordinator. She accepted the role four years ago at the request of the former rector, George Willis. At the start of the mission, the teens are split into smaller crews consisting of between five and eight. A total of 58 crews was assigned to perform tasks at 50 different houses, Glass said.

Projects included scraping, painting, priming, caulking, glazing, installing drywall, building wheelchair ramps, mending porches, installing and repairing roof shingles and repairing floors. If and when there was a problem, the adults were on hand to help. "This is a perfect example of all that kids can do‚" Glass said. "The entire week is a chance for them to go beyond themselves and what others expect of them, and to do something great."

Glass added that a spiritual component also plays an integral part in the students’ experience throughout the course of the week. "A portion of each day was set aside for reflection, while a portion of each night was dedicated to inspiring one another on a spiritual level," she said.

During their stay, student and parent volunteers were put up at a local middle school in Machipongo, where they slept on air mattresses in the gymnasium, ate in the cafeteria and showered in the locker rooms. "The town was very charming and the accommodations more than adequate for our purposes," Glass added. "Of course, there were a few students who forgot their pumps and had to sleep on the hard floor, but they never complained."

So selfless, in fact, were these youngsters that the cost of the trip and building supplies came out of their own pockets. "When I tell people that these participants not only volunteered their time to be there, but paid $320 of their own hard-earned money, they are amazed and grateful," Glass said. "Our participation in the Reach program changes not only the lives of those people whose houses we help to renovate, but our own lives, as well."

Last year, St. George’s youth group spent a week in Hurricane, W. Va., repairing houses. The year before that, they traveled to upstate New York. The program is open to children in grades 9-12. Chaperones must be at least 21 years of age. "I’m always recruiting, so any adult interested in helping out shouldn’t hesitate to contact the parish," Glass added.

The trip always takes place during the last week in June. Doug York, whose son Doug Jr., 17, and daughter Alice, 15, have participated in the program for the last two years, said that he believes "Reach must offer something tremendously uplifting‚" to make its teen volunteers want to participate year after year. "As a parent, I am extremely proud. I mean, my kids literally finished finals and left the next day for the drive to Virginia," he said. "The entire project is just such a wonderful display of selflessness and those who take part are truly the better for it."

York’s wife, Eve, has also gone on the last two trips. "I hope I get to go sometime," he said. "I know I wouldn’t regret it." York added that Reach also urges the creation of a bond between the children and those families they help. "It is really about the whole experience, not just one facet. And I think that’s what makes it so enriching for the volunteers."

This year’s teen volunteer staff included: Philippa Beardsley, Atlantic Highlands; Sarah Beebe, Rumson; Bill Bolton, Rumson; Wil Bennett, Fair Haven; Ashley and Brandon Burris, Lakewood; Mark Cafaro, Little Silver; Tim Galligan, Rumson; Dan Gilmour, Fair Haven; Alex Gremminger, Fair Haven; Melanie Layton, Rumson; Sabrina List, Red Bank; Jocelyn Ojeda, Rumson; Wil Rhame, Highlands; Philip Rehders, Rumson; Mackenzie Schmidt, Fair Haven; Sara Turner, Rumson; Alice and Doug York, Rumson; Minely Caraballo, Long Branch; Christina Jennifer Schmidt, Long Branch; Jenna Mayo, Long Branch and Sharon Archibald, Long Branch. Group leaders were: Bill Hurtt, Navesink; Eve York, Rumson; Jan Glass, Rumson, and Rob Goodman of St. James, Long Branch. All were recognized during a special presentation at Sunday’s 10 a.m. service.

Return to top