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Teens help 80 Union County families

These students, from left Alex Slabaugh, 19, from Massillon, Ohio, a sophomore at the University of Akron; CJ Harner, 15, a high school sophomore at Open Bible Christ Academy in Kingsville, Maryland; and Nina BancheroSmith,15, a sophomore at North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan, cut lumber for a wheelchair ramp at the home of Monroe resident Jennifer Barbour.

Thanks to about 330 middle and high school students from across the United States, about 80 Union County homeowners witnessed home repairs in times when their own pocketbooks couldn’t afford them.
   
The teens, housed at Parkwood High School, have worked the past two weeks through a program called Reach Workcamps, which is based in Colorado. The goal of the program is to assist those in the community who are disadvantaged, especially the elderly, with minor home repairs. The main focus and purpose of the workcamps, however, is to minister to the youth who participate.
   
“If we can take that 15-year-old kid and make him realize that he has some skills, abilities and purpose, he may grow up to be a teacher, businessman, pastor, a good dad, and hopefully, he’ll reach out to his community,” said Mike Jones, executive director and cofounder of the program.
   
Since its inception in 1992, Reach has helped communities predominately across the East Coast, from New York to Mississippi. The program includes basic weatherization, painting and repair and construction of porches, handrails, gutters, steps, wheelchair ramps, roofs and dry walls. It also reaches out to these students’ humanity.
   
“It helps these youths to look at poverty differently,” Jones said. “These kids drive down the street now and look at a house and can’t help but think, ‘you know we could fix that.’ Before, they would just have driven by. Now they realize that these homes which are in disrepair, are actually lived in by real people.”
   
One group of Reach students built a wheelchair ramp last week at the home of Monroe resident Jennifer Barbour. “They’re building a ramp for my mother who has been in a wheelchair since the first of the year,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to have this done without their help. This is just wonderful. These students are awesome. Now I don’t have to wonder how Mom will get in and out of the house.”
   
Keri Martin, 18, a senior at Fairport High School in Fairport, New York, has been involved in Reach mission trips for three years. She was first introduced to the work camps through friends who had gone. “They all had so much fun, and it sounded like a good way to do some community service. And you get to be outside working.”
   
Martin said it also helps to break the negative stereotypes of teens. “I think it shows us that we can do more than we think. We often hear that teen-agers don’t do much other than sit in front of a computer or watch TV. This also shows that we can do something important. We can make a difference.”
   
This is the second year that Reach has come to Union County. The first was the summer of 2005. Students from all over the United States participate in this community out reach program, which continues throughout the summer in various communities across the US.    

This summer, students came to Union County from as far away as Michigan, New York, Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
   
The workcamps are held at high school campuses each year during the summer months when schools are out for summer break and students are on vacation. In existence since 1992, Reach Workcamps is a weeklong mission of service to low-income communities.
   
This summer alone, approximately 3,000 young adults have assisted 350 to 400 homeowners across the nation. Working with local agencies and/or local churches, the camps seek to make an impact on residents, communities, students and adult sponsors who attend. It is 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.
   
Reach is interdenominational and not affiliated with any one church. It serves all Christian churches. For more information about Reach, visit their website at www. reachwc.org or call 1-888-REACH-WC.
 

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Aug 01, 2008 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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