Close to 400 youth and adults from across the nation will descend on the Lyons Middle/High School July 17 through 23 hoping to repair steps, porches, build wheelchair ramps, complete interior and exterior painting, some weatherization and some roof repair.

Wanted — 60 to 80 homes needing repairs.

Close to 400 youth and adults from across the nation will descend on the Lyons Middle/High School July 17 through 23 hoping to repair steps, porches, build wheelchair ramps, complete interior and exterior painting, some weatherization and some roof repair.

For more than 30 years, Group Cares, a non-profit, interdenominational, Christian, volunteer home-repair organization centered in Colorado, has been connecting young adults with meaningful work that has the potential to impact lives of community residents.

“It’s good to see the kids giving service,” said Kris Vanderlinde, who will coordinate this year’s work camp, Erie Canal Group Workcamp, co-sponsored by Group Cares and the Lyons Methodist Church youth group that has been attending workcamps since 2003.

The last camp that worked in the Lyons area was held in 2007.

“There are still a lot of houses and people who need help in this area,” said Vanderlinde.

Kids of all faiths, from age 12 to 20, are welcome to volunteer a week of their time to help repair homes.

Targeted for work are owner-occupied homes of low income, elderly or disabled individuals, which need at least four days of work completed and that are within 20 minutes of the middle/high school.
During the work week, both adults and youth live as campers.

“Each adult is assigned five kids,” said Vanderlinde. “None are from their own youth group. We get to meet new teenagers.”

For four days, they work at the same home with the same residents.

“The people are very positive,” said Vanderlinde, who still gets Christmas cards from some of the residents she has worked with. “They’re excited to have us there completing repairs. And they have someone to keep them company.”

Residents whose homes have received work are invited to join campers Friday night for a devotional and are recognized.

This year, more than 20 members of the local youth group, instead of working on homes, will help keep camp going.

But, it’s not all work. Through skits, dramas and praise band music, the group will study scriptures from the Bible and hold a devotional each evening. On Wednesday, a half day reprieve is given so groups can travel to local areas of interest.

What do the youth take away from this experience?

“We hope they’ll get the satisfaction of brightening the residents’s day and working for them,” said Vanderlinde, “and after the experience, become more spiritually involved.”

April Vanderlinde, 16, goes every year to meet people and learn new things.

“I go because of the reward I get out of it spiritually,” she said. “I always want to go back.”

Often a positive cycle is begun in the neighborhoods where campers work, she said. Neighbors see a home being repaired and are motivated to clean their own up. Or, a resident who received help may choose to return to church.

All told, more than 25,000 young people and adults will participate in 43 work camps across the United States and Canada this summer.

In Lyons alone, it’s estimated that over the week, the group of 400 will give 12,000 hours of volunteer labor worth more than $110,000 to the community.

“We come back refreshed and ready to go at God’s work again,” said Vanderlinde.

To help or to get help

If interested in becoming a camper at workcamp, apply online at www.groupworkcamps.org or call 946-6035 for information.

Monetary donations are also needed, as are people to bake cookies and sew backpacks.

If seeking help for your home, call the church at the above number for an application. Applications will also be available at schools and other area churches.