Camp Joy volunteers tackle projects at 55 sites

July 15, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - What began 15 years ago as a few volunteers working on a couple of houses for a handful of days has grown into a two-week work camp with more than 400 workers at 55 sites.

"This is my fifth year at the Hancock United Methodist Church and also my fifth year with the Camp Joy project," said the Rev. Duane Jensen, who is co-chairing this year's efforts with Laurel Kirkpatrick.

The work camps this summer will be in operation the weeks of July 18 and 25.

Jensen was in Baltimore when he asked for an appointment to a church that had just such a program. "I have a heart for missions and that's what this is," Jensen said.


Camp Joy is an acronym for Christian Appalachian Mission Project - Joining Other Youth. Now an autonomous organization, it is funded through donations such as the one Hancock United Methodist makes each year just for that purpose.

To qualify for assistance, the person being helped must be of limited or low income, elderly or disabled. The work can range from scraping and painting to building handicapped-accessible ramps and fixing plumbing.

The 55 sites are homes with owners who can't afford, or are physically unable, to repair the dwellings themselves. People who rent aren't eligible.

"Each year we advertise around the Tri-State area for applicants to apply to have work done," Jensen said.

As for gathering volunteers, many are repeaters from years past, while others hear about it through word of mouth and sign up.

"We've actually had to turn some volunteers away because of the response," Jensen said.

Jensen said the Camp Joy work often prepares young people for broader mission opportunities elsewhere in the United States or abroad.

Supplies for the repairs are either brought in by the volunteer work groups or purchased once they arrive in Hancock, Jensen said. Some small portion of the Camp Joy budget is used for supplies.

Volunteers are always expected to bring their own tools.

"Some of the people who are being helped join in the work or pay a little something, though neither is necessary," Jensen said. But he said there are times when cookies are baked and cool drinks are provided to the volunteers, and those are always welcome.

Those volunteers who need a place to stay while working on Camp Joy projects are housed at Camp Harmison, which is about nine miles east of Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Breakfast is provided each day, as arebagged lunches for the work site.

"Area churches take turns providing the volunteers with dinner each night," Jensen said. The volunteers pay $45 tuition each for the week they are working, which helps defray those costs.

The Rev. Ken McDonald, a former pastor of Hancock United Methodist Church, initiated the program in 1989 to help people flooded out in Paw Paw, W.Va. That year, three Methodist churches and 40 volunteers participated.

Jensen said he will lead a work group the first week and then will coordinate the efforts during the second week.

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