Submitted by Sr Niky Burgos
A team of nearly 75 teens, young adults and adults from St. Vincent de Paul Church in Stirling, NJ 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 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 ten families to repair roofs, build a wheelchair ramp, fix porches, and 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 teens own skills, especially math as they worked together in calculating and designing their projects.
The theme this year was Adventure – ”Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure!” (St. Pope John Paul II). The teens became mindful throughout the week, and thereafter, that one’s entire life is an adventure WITH and FOR Christ. When we surrender our own plans for the adventure God has in store for us we lose nothing and, in fact, gain everything.
“This is my third year on Appalachia and each year it never ceases to be an amazing experience. When people ask me what I’m doing over the summer, I always reply with this trip, as it is the best week of my summer. Upon my return this year, my mom asked me if my group, leader, or overall experience was better than the previous two years that I have gone on the trip. After thinking about something that could push this year into the ‘best year yet’, I simply decided that each year is so unique in the experiences I have that I can’t quantify a ‘best year’. That, I think, is what is so special about this trip. I can experience totally different things each year, with the same and new people, all while helping those who need it most. That’s what keeps me coming back year after year.”
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.