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Group builds a connection to God at camp

July 09, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

BOONSBORO - While working to make repairs on area homes, 400 people will have a chance to work on their relationships with God.

Participants in the Antietam Workcamp will make repairs to about 50 Washington County homes that belong to the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged. The workcamp that runs from July 22 to 28 will draw volunteers from across the country, according to The Rev. Anne Weatherholt of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Boonsboro, which planned the camp.

She said the church partnered with REACH and other area groups. Antietam Workcamp is part of Group Workcamps Foundation, which oversees similar projects for 12- to 20-year-olds across the country. The foundation began in the 1970s.

"We thought it was such a great program," Weatherholt said. "And there is a need in the community."

She said homes already have been chosen, and the work involves a lot of painting.

"It's also building wheelchair ramps, porch repair, gutter work ...," she said.

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Weatherholt said planning and organizing for the camp started about two years ago. The volunteers who will be making the repairs are mostly from out of town, she said, to give the homeowners privacy.

"Otherwise, you could be working on your neighbor's home," she said.

Local residents have helped organize the camp, including lodging and other logistics.

Weatherholt said $26,000 has been raised for the camp. The money will be used to buy supplies to make the repairs.

Campers will spend each night at Williamsport High School.

"They start out thinking it's going to be a social experience," said Barb Lambert of Halfway, the hospitality chairwoman for Antietam Workcamp. "But it ends up being more of a spiritual experience."

Laura Baldasarre, 16, who has attended similar camps, said repair work is balanced with group prayer and evening activities. Campers become closer to God and help those in need, she said.

"It's a lot of fun," she said. "And I think you grow a lot closer to God. It's a great experience."

Leah Beachley, 17, of Hagerstown, and several other members of St. Mark's recently went to a similar camp in York, Pa. Leah said she worked in a rehabilitation center for women, cleaning the grounds and doing other work.

"They had as much of an impact on us as we did on them," she said.

Weatherholt said that some of the work might not be completed during the one-week camp, so members of the congregation likely will complete the repairs.

"We'll pick up where they left off," she said.

Elizabeth Fraser, 12, of Boonsboro, said she attended the camp in York at the end of June.

While her friends are spending their summer vacation playing volleyball and spending time together, Elizabeth said she's glad she took a week to help those less fortunate.

"I'm much closer to God than I was when I went," she said. "I like going to church more."

Her sister, Caroline Fraser, 11, attended the same camp.




For details about Antietam Workcamp or ways to help, call St. Mark's Episcopal Church at 301-582-0417 or REACH at 301-733-2371.

Information about Group Workcamps Foundation can be found at www.groupworkcamps.com.

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