On teens’ Big Easy trip, it will be anything but


Youth mission trip

The St. Nicholas Church Youth Ministry Group has raised $8,000 for its mission trip to New Orleans but needs $2,000 more.

If you want to help, call (330) 755-9819 for information on how to contribute.

The St. Nick’s students will appear daily on vindy.com blogging about their trip. They leave Sunday. Read online Monday through Friday for stories and photos about their trip and volunteering.

By Jeanne Starmack

For a group of St. Nicholas Church teenagers, this is no ordinary summer.

STRUTHERS — It was hot this year at Struthers Day in Mauthe Park, but for a group of teens who’d gathered there Thursday evening — well, they ain’t seen nothing yet.

They’re leaving Sunday from Northeast Ohio’s low 80s to New Orleans, where it’s likely to be sweltering in the 90s.

They aren’t going there for a vacation, either — St. Nicholas Church Youth Ministry Group leaders have made that clear to them.

Fourteen teenagers and six adults will drive eight hours in two cramped passenger vans to Tennessee, where they’ll spend the night.

They’ll continue Monday for eight or nine more hours to New Orleans.

There, they’ll help rebuild a home and a life for a single mother and her two teenage daughters, who have been displaced since Hurricane Katrina destroyed so much of the city four years ago.

They’ll stay in dormitories. There will be no electronic toys, said Gina Burkey and Chrissy Goss, two of the group leaders.

The teens who’d gathered at Mauthe Park on Thursday, where they had a booth to raise more money for their trip, laughed at the thought — no electronics.

Carleen Kalasky, 16, of Creed Street, was being a good sport about it.

“It’ll be a really good experience. I’m excited,” she said.

“We’ll have fun,” added Jordan Burkey, 15, of Como Street. He’s Gina’s son.

They’re going to be busy, too, so they likely won’t miss their BlackBerrys, MP3 players and laptops. They’ll be trading them for paint brushes, brooms and rakes to paint, clean and do landscaping at a house in a suburb that has already been gutted and rehabbed for the family, said Goss, who was also at the park Thursday.

Other mission groups from the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown have gone before them — they’re part of a larger effort the diocese has with Habitat for Humanity to help Katrina refugees, said Burkey.

But there will be some fun, too.

They’re going to go on a swamp tour and to museums.

They’ll have word-search books, and, yes, coloring books, said Carleen.

Mike Safarek, 16, of Edison Avenue, plans to catch up on some reading.

A local family will host them one night for dinner, said Madeline Kopper, 16, of Fifth Street.

It’s costing the group $10,000 to go on the weeklong trip, and so far, they’ve raised $8,000. The booth at Struthers Day was a scramble to raise more — they sold prayer candles there and took donations.

They’ve been working all summer, too, said Gina Burkey, to raise the funds.

They’ve had carwashes, they said, sold candy, and sold hot dogs at the Fourth of July parade. They’ve tagged for donations after masses at St. Nicholas.

They’ve already given up much of their regular summer activities to do the fundraising, Burkey said. Several did it while holding down summer jobs.

The trip, she said, is going to be an eye-opener for them.

Talia Radilovic, 17, is a little nervous. “I’m nervous to know what the people are like,” she said.

“I’m excited about being able to help someone less fortunate,” said Corey Patrick, 16, of West Omar Street.

The group is still accepting donations. Call (330) 755-9819 for information on how to contribute.

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