Catholic HEART Workcamp identifies needy among prosperous


HILTON HEAD ISLAND  The National Catholic HEART (Helping Everyone Attain Relief Together) Workcamp came to Hilton Head Island July 24-29, bringing more than 350 volunteers from across the country to 60 worksites for a week of hard labor in the Lowcountry.

Most of the volunteers were high schoolers ranging in age from from 14 to 17. They came from Kentucky, Illinois, Georgia, and Louisiana, and parts beyond, paying $165 apiece to help defray the cost of their remodeling projects.

Homes in poverty-stricken areas on the sea island in need of refurbishing were identified by Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, the Franciscan Center on St. Helena Island, the St. Vincent de Paul Society on Hilton Head, and other groups.

Local construction companies and contractors donated employees to work on site to supervise the teens and teach safety techniques. Tool rooms to house needed building supplies and equipment were also provided by the contractors.

Each day, young people were organized into teams to work on projects, with each team consisting of six youths and one adult leader. Jobs ranged from indoor cleaning to maintenance repairs to weatherization to basic carpentry.

Rosemary DeWolfe, youth minister at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton who formerly served in that capacity at St. Francis by the Sea Parish in Hilton Head, described the mission of Catholic HEART Workcamp as being twofold.

“First, it’s to be of service to others in any way needed. The workcamp revitalizes communities and beautifies homes of the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford needed repairs. The goal is to inspire participants to serve in their local communities,” DeWolfe explained. “Second, it’s to spiritually enrich the lives of workcamp participants and provide them opportunities to experience God’s love in a deeper manner. The goal here is to inspire participants to be more holy and Christlike.”

St. Francis by the Sea sponsored a group of teens working at the Chaplain residence not far from the church. Parish youth minister Joan Shank said St. Francis held a “stock sale,” investing in the teens for fund raising for the workcamp, raising about $1,000.

While at the Chaplain home the youth cleaned the yard, replaced window screens, rebuilt steps, and repainted the exterior walls. “They’re wonderful,” said homeowner Geneva Chaplain of the volunteers. “They did a fine job.” Shank also described the teen workers as “a great bunch of young people.”

Youths were housed at Hilton Head High School and their days began with breakfast at 6:30 a.m., followed by a morning program. The gatherings included prayer and skits performed by adult and teen leaders. In late afternoon, following showers in the school gym, an evening program with different activities each day rounded out the schedule.

“Each morning and evening was filled with an energetic program and thought-provoking speakers that inspired and motivated participants to serve others and grow closer to Jesus Christ,” said DeWolfe, who added that Mass was celebrated on the opening and closing nights of the workcamp. On one of the evenings, a reconciliation service was even offered for those interested.

St. Francis volunteer Katie Hocevar called the project a great experience. “It broadens your horizons,” she said.

Brittany Brogdon, another volunteer from St. Francis, said the week-long effort “shows the world teens can do good stuff.”

“This was my ninth summer of participating in workcamp,” said DeWolfe. “I really believe in the positive change this experience makes in the youth of today  youth that are often given so much are usually deeply touched by face-to-face poverty. They go home with a greater appreciation for the blessings they have been given and are more willing to reach out to those in need.”

Published Aug. 17, 2000