Work camp in city sought

By Harold Gwin

Hundreds would improve the homes of elderly, disabled and low-income residents in Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN — Western Reserve United Methodist Church in Canfield brought in a 400-member youth work camp in 2008 to make repairs to nearly 70 homes in Youngstown.

The weeklong project went so well that the church wants to sponsor another camp in 2011.

Representatives of the church appeared before the city school board’s business committee last week to ask permission to house the camp at Chaney High School.

That’s where the 2008 camp was headquartered, with small work teams of high school-age young people and chaperones spending days working on homes in Youngstown and nights at the school.

The church needs the school district’s cooperation to file an application for a 2011 camp with the Group Workcamps Foundation, a Colorado-based, nonprofit, faith-based mission that handles camper registration and the coordination process, said Joyce Aye, co-chairwoman of the 2008 camp.

“The application [process] starts now,” said the Rev. Russell Adams, Western Reserve’s pastor, explaining why the church is approaching the school board so early.

A camp week is available June 19-25, 2011, he told the committee.

The 2008 camp, dubbed Mill Creek Group Workcamp, was “a great experience,” he said, noting that the church heard no complaints.

Neither did the school district, said Tony DeNiro, assistant superintendent for school business affairs.

“It was a great experience, I think, for everyone,” DeNiro said.

The school provided the facilities, school cafeteria staff handled cooking and school security personnel monitored the grounds, he said, adding that Group Workcamps picked up the tab for everything.

It’s an ecumenical effort, the Rev. Mr. Adams said, noting that the young people came from seven or eight states, and each paid about $400 for the chance to participate. That money goes for building materials, food and other costs. Western Reserve will conduct various fund-raising activities to raise additional money to complete the necessary funding. The church needed to raise $25,000 for the first camp but wound up raising $40,000.

The campers painted houses, built decks, repaired porches and more.

Elderly, disabled and low-income Youngstown residents applied to have their homes worked on, and a committee selected about 70 from a list of 160 applicants, based on the scope of work to be done and safety factors for the campers.

Michael Murphy, business committee chairman, said his committee favors having a second camp in Youngstown and promised to take the issue to the full school board for approval.

Aey noted that no young people from Youngstown applied to participate in the first camp, and the church intends to send fliers to city churches this time encouraging them to sponsor campers at about $400 each.

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