Appalachia work camp gives new meaning to summer vacation

Appalachia work camp gives new meaning to summer vacation

The JC Alumni and current students pose in front of the dining hall at the camp ground in Terra Alta, West Virginia. The group from left to right (back row) senior Zach Donato, Brian Olsen, class of ’90, Joe Slovik, class of ’88, (front row) senior Olivia Dunbar, junior Shannon Olsen, junior Mary Kate Luft, junior Malia Williamson, and senior Katie O’Brien.

Sarah Kearby, Lifestyles Editor

With sweat dripping down their faces, inhaling paint fumes, five JC students worked the last week of June to help the less fortunate.

Students teamed up with church groups from around the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Each morning the students would get up around seven a.m., eat breakfast, and travel to their separate work sites around Terra Alta, West Virginia.

“Most of the time, the Church and school groups get split and are not usually on the same site because it gives everyone the chance to meet new people,” junior Shannon Olsen said.

After arriving at their work sites around eight a.m., the volunteers assisted the homeowner with whatever they needed. “We scraped and painted window sills, repainted the basement, stained the deck, and cleaned out the shed,” junior Mary Kate Luft said.

During a typical day, the students would work from eight a.m. to four p.m. staying some days until closer six p.m. to accomplish everything the homeowner wanted done. After they finished on their work sites, they would go back to camp and play games until dinner.

“We would have time to hang out and do whatever we liked, such as playing basketball or going on ice cream runs to Dairy Queen,” Luft said.

After dinner, students had some free time until everyone gathered around a campfire around nine p.m. “At the campfire on Friday night, the entire group of students that came from all the different schools gathered together, and each person gets a chance to speak about his or her week and what they enjoyed most,” Olsen said.

Each JC student gained appreciation for what they have. “I was able to step back from everything I am caught up in and realize the things I am given that others may not be fortunate enough to have,” senior Olivia Dunbar said.

“My favorite memory from the trip was when we were praying with the woman who owned the house we worked at on the last day of camp. She was so grateful for everything we did for her. She thanked us for helping us with her house, but also for being friends to her that week. It was so sweet and it made me feel really good that we had made such a positive impact on her life,” Luft said.

Even though these students gave up a whole week of their precious summers, none of them regret it. “I was uneasy about going to the work camp at first, but looking back it was probably the best thing I did last summer. I encourage everyone to experience a trip like this or give back in the community someway,” Dunbar said.

“I actually got to make a difference in someone’s life instead of doing nothing for a week,” Luft said.

“I am going back because when I am down in West Virginia helping my clients, something just feels so good and so right,” Olsen said. This year’s trip is from June 24 to the 30. For more details, see Summer Programs Coordinator Tony Martin in the Outreach office.

Sarah Kearby is a Lifestyles Editor of The Patriot and