MIFFLINTOWN - Home renovations aren't the only changes happening this week in Juniata County.
Just less than 400 teenaged volunteers and adult supervisors from across the nation have moved into Mifflintown and the surrounding area for the 2014 Juniata County Workcamp. The program, co-sponsored by Group Cares, a Christian volunteer organization, and St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in Mifflintown, provides free home repair to residents in need. The volunteers, who have been in the county since Sunday, said the experience is life-changing in more ways than one.
Caitlin Smith, 14, of Connecticut, said she decided to join the effort after seeing the way a workcamp held last year influenced other teens from her home church.
ABOVE:?Amanda Lynch, left, of Illinois, and Larissa Moreno, right, of Indiana, hold a board while Michael Houle, of Connecticut, cuts it Tuesday at the Harry and Esther Dunn residence in McAlisterville. The crew is building a ramp to make the home handicapped accessible. Nearly 400 teenaged and adult volunteers from across the country are doing free home repairs to residents in need through the 2014 Juniata Workcamp program. The program is co-sponsored by Group Cares, a Christian volunteer organization and St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Mifflintown.
RIGHT:?Caitlin Smith, of Connecticut, paints the porch roof Tuesday at the Katherine Fogleman residence in Mifflintown.
"People came back changed," she said, explaining that it seemed they were more eager to help others.
Smith traveled to Juniata County with two adults and four other youth from St. Joseph's Church in Chester, Conn. The group said they had to pay to join the mission trip and held fundraising events all year. Their work paid off, they said, with the opportunity to help a woman they'd never met.
The group of volunteers with whom Smith traveled are spending the week repainting Katherine Fogleman's house in Mifflintown. Ashley Termini, 16, who has participated in four different workcamps, said she keeps coming back for one simple reason.
"'Cause we're God's children, and we're called to help our sister, Kitty," she said, referring to Fogleman.
Grace Martorelli, 14, who also traveled with the Connecticut church group, said Fogleman's brother stopped by the house on Monday and was happy to see the progress they made.
"Even through changing Kitty's life, we changed his," she said.
The project also impacts the volunteers.
Elise Wilson, 14, also of Connecticut, said she helps with many smaller volunteer projects at her home church but was excited to be a part of "something bigger."
At a second house, six individuals who had never met before the workcamp gathered for lunch.
"We all filled out surveys to match up our skill sets," said Sandy Graham, an adult volunteer from Virginia.
The six volunteers were then assigned to construct a wheelchair ramp at the home of Harry and Esther Dunn, of McAlisterville.
This was the first time Larissa Moreno, of Indiana, attended a mission trip as an adult volunteer. She said she was looking forward to "sunburns, blisters ... and friendships."
Though many participants were working with and for complete strangers, they found commonality through their faiths.
"In public high school, you think you're alone as a Christian," said Rowan Schreiner, 17, of Virginia.
But her perspective changed, she said, as she looked out upon bleachers full of other teenagers at the camp's lodging area at Tuscarora Junior High School.
Justin Schramm, 17, of Maryland, said he still keeps in touch with some of the friends he met at past workcamps.
"For that week, (crew members) are fantastic people and good friends to have, even if it's only for a week," he said.
According to Group Cares' website, the organization is sponsoring 36 missions trips - including Juniata County - in the United States this summer. Volunteers travel to towns and cities throughout the country and provide free home repair to those in need. In Juniata County, 395 volunteers have been organized into 66 work crews at 62 work sites. The event continues until Saturday.