St. Vincent de Paul Volunteers Repair Homes in West Virginia
Submitted by Teri Kesselmeyer
A group of volunteers from St. Vincent de Paul Church, located at 250 Bebout Ave., Stirling, NJ, traveled to West Virginia to help repair homes. The team of 53 teens, young adults and adults not only gave up a week of their summer to serve the less fortunate in Preston County, WV, but also raised more than $20,000 to fund the trip, particularly for the necessary building materials and supplies.
The teens worked with the Summer Home Repair Program, run by the Catholic Church of Preston County, which provides home repairs at no cost to low-income families and individuals from June through early August. The program began in 1985 after flooding destroyed many homes in the area and has only grown since then.
The group worked with nine families to repair roofs, build ramps, fix porches, kitchens, do plumbing work, install doors and much more. Adult volunteers worked tirelessly not only to complete the work, but also to teach the teens new skills which, according to the adult volunteers, was complemented by the teen’s own skills, especially math as they worked together in calculating and designing their projects. The young adults were able to put their leadership skills into practice. They were able to take the initiative and start working on what needed to be done and pass on their knowledge to our younger teens.
The theme this year was taken from the Gospel of Mark “Go out into the world” (Mk 16:15). The teens became mindful throughout the week, and thereafter, that God calls us every day to go out into the world and share His good news. As many of them shared during our final reflection, we thought that we were bringing Jesus to those whom we went to serve, but to our surprise, Jesus was already there. We found Him in each person we worked with in West Virginia.
“My trip to West Virginia was different than any other experience I have ever had. I met many nice people that showed me a different side of life,” said Mike Sabatella. “From the people I met at our campgrounds, to the group I worked with all week, and most of all the family my group worked for, I learned so much. I learned that when you surround yourself with caring people that are willing to help those less fortunate you gain so much more respect for yourself and others.”
At the end of the week, many teens shared similar personal reflections with the group. Volunteers agreed that as much as they had given, they had received so much more in return from the homeowners and the experiences they had on the trip.