Since Sunday, Bishop Hendricken High School has been home to 297 teen volunteers and adult chaperones from different Catholic parishes throughout the country – all members of Catholic Heart Workcamp.
The teens will be working on private properties through Thursday, and discovering the charms of Rhode Island on Friday before departure on Saturday. The volunteers were divided into teams of about seven or eight ranging from 8th to 12th grade and one or two chaperones.
With headquarters in Orlando, Fla., Catholic Heart Workcamp emphasizes service, spirituality and teamwork.
“They offered it through my school and I thought it would be really great to help out. I heard about it from a lot of kids older than me that it was fun,” said Dan Misenzik from Solon, Ohio. Misenzik was a member of a team working yesterday at the home of Joanne Devine on Atlantic Avenue.
The team repaired a broken fence, railing, gutters, walk way, painted the bathroom, cleaned windows, and replanted flowers.
“The work is a piece of it, but when we get back to the school [Hendricken] there are all sorts of programs that run in the afternoon and evenings of religious and spiritual stuff and social activities,” said chaperone Gary Juisti.
They get the opportunity to pray the Rosary, participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and get to know the other volunteers. The students spend the night at Hendricken on air mattresses and sleeping bags.
While working on a project, the teen volunteers are encouraged to interact with residents to better understand the difference they are making in someone’s life.
“She was really, really happy working with us and talking to us. The kids come in to talk to her for a while and make her feel comfortable, chat with her, hear where she grew up, and where she’s from,” said Juisti.
Divine’s house was chosen through the Pilgrim Senior Center but she had no idea that she was in for a home makeover when she simply signed a sheet for those in need of home repairs.
“I’m just very lucky that strangers came into my life and helped me out with things I really needed. I feel very blessed; it’s so wonderful,” said Devine, adding the volunteers have impressed her with their hard work and positive attitude. “They just have the best spirit.”
In total, there are 40 different groups working on 57 projects throughout the state. The volunteers are from 10 different states and 13 parish groups.
“We talk with local social service agencies and talk to reps to see who is in need,” said Ryan Spooner, the local camp manager for the Catholic Heart Workcamp.
As for seeing a bit of Rhode Island, volunteers were especially excited about going to Iggy’s for clam cakes and doughboys. They also plan to visit the mansions in Newport and go to the beach.