Crews give Pa. homeowners a hand in repairs, cleanups

July 16, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - By the end of this week, 50 or more homes in Franklin County will have roofs that don't leak, plumbing that works, yards cleared of brush and rubbish, or just a new coat of paint.

The work is being done by more than 300 young people from around the county and the country and they all are paying for the privilege of helping others.

Crews from the Chambersburg Project and Reach Workcamps are making homes more livable for the elderly, the disabled and others who are unable to do the repairs themselves, according to members of both groups.


"Makes it more like a home," Rodney Hockenberry said as he watched a Reach Workcamps crew add a roof over the porch and ramp of his home in the Northwood Mobile Home Park near Chambersburg. The ramp was built by a Reach crew last year, according to Paul Richardson, the work site coordinator.

"They did a very nice job, so I was happy to have them back again this year," Hockenberry said.

Hockenberry was injured three years ago in a motorcycle accident, according to his sister, Barb Evans. "He was a go-getter before that happened," said Evans, who learned about Reach through her church.

A few miles away, a crew from the Chambersburg Project painted a man's house on East Washington Street. The all-female crew was hoping to finish and surprise the owner before he returns home from a hospital stay.

"It's enjoyable to know there's a way to help people you don't know," said Michelle Negley, 14, of Greencastle, Pa. They also were having some fun on the job, decorating themselves with strips of duct tape.

A few doors down, brush was being cleared from the back yard of Grace Williams.

"We kind of ran out of work at our other job and they sent us over here," said Wendy Smith of Chambersburg, the adult crew leader. Earlier in the day, they did repairs at a home in Fayetteville, Pa. They were at a house in Waynesboro, Pa., on Monday.

Smith, along with Tom Robertson, 15, and Daniel Clark, 13, both of Chambersburg, and 14-year-old Jenelle Rock of Mont Alto, Pa., had sweated out a 6-foot pile of brush that later would be hauled away.

The 115 Chambersburg Project youths paid $125 for the week, most of which is used to buy materials, said Barb Moran of Chambersburg, a volunteer and wife of the project director Tim Moran. The Chambersburg Project is in its sixth year and draws youth ages 13 to 18 from more than two dozen churches.

Crews of six to eight students work under the supervision of an adult, often someone experienced in a building trade, Moran said. Students came from as far away as Gaithersburg and Hagerstown, and Altoona, Pa., she said. They work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and come together at night at Faust Junior High School for meals and inspirational programs before bedding down on classroom floors.

Despite the name, the Chambersburg Project does work throughout the county, Moran said.

The Reach youths are staying at Shippensburg (Pa.) High School, Richardson said. Based in Colorado, Reach signed up approximately 2,700 young people from across the country for nine summer workcamps to make improvements on about 450 homes, he said.

The crew at Hockenberry's home, one of about 40 for this work camp, come from South Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia. All 243 students on this mission paid $340 to pound nails, saw wood and dig holes at 40 different sites in Franklin and Cumberland counties.

"I heard about this mission from my church and I thought it would be a really great way to build relationships and help others," said Julie Yorkshire, 14, of Plum, Pa.

Richardson made two trips to the area earlier in the year to look at homes. Each work site has a list of priority and secondary repairs, along with needed materials.

"It's a joy to come to a camp like this and not worry about the details," said Dan Nesbitt of Isle of Palms, S.C., an adult crew leader.

Reach did get $19,000 from the Franklin County Housing Trust Fund, mostly for materials to be used on 26 houses in this county, according to Phil Wolgemuth, a county planner. Because there are no labor charges and no federal or state regulations tied to the money's use, he said the dollars go a long way.

"In the case of the county commissioners, they have made it very unbureaucratic and clean," he said.

"This is a prime example of what the president has been talking about, faith-based initiatives," said County Commissioner Bob Thomas. "This partnership with the county ... is a bargain."

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