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330 happy campers arrive to help local people

July 23, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WILLIAMSPORT - This week, hundreds of students will pick up paint- brushes, hammers and nails and work to give area houses a face-lift.

About 330 students from 10 states arrived in Washington County Sunday to begin a weeklong camp that they say will bring them closer to God while they help local homeowners.

The campers participating in the Antietam Workcamp will repair about 50 local homes that belong to the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged.

The campers are staying at Williamsport High School through Saturday.

The Rev. Anne Weatherholt of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Boonsboro, which planned the camp, said organizing Antietam Workcamp took about two years.

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"It's like a coming together of something that's been in pieces for so long," she said.

The church partnered with REACH and other area groups to organize and host the camp.

Antietam Workcamp is part of Group Workcamps Foundation, which began in the 1970s and oversees similar projects for 12- to 20-year-olds across the country.

"It's nice to see everything finally come together," said Kevin Collins, who works with REACH.

On Sunday, groups arrived in Williamsport and got settled at the school. That night they learned which small work groups they would be spending time with all week. Today, campers were scheduled to begin repair work.

Tim Doyle, who lives just east of Hagerstown, said campers and volunteers will be working on a small stone and log home he owns in Sharpsburg.

"We're extremely grateful that they're going to be there," he said.

Most of the work will include interior and exterior painting.

Projects at other homes will include building wheelchair ramps, porch repairs and light construction, said Justin Storey, with Group Workcamps Foundation.

"Our main goal is spiritual growth," he said. "Growth in their faith that comes even before they leave."

Anna Baldasare, 15, of Hagerstown, attends St. Mark's Episcopal Church and will be volunteering with Antietam Workcamp this week. She has attended a similar camp in Michigan.

"It's always fun," she said.

Anna said the programs and the work brought her and other campers closer to God.

"It feels good to help people," she said. "I'm excited about getting started."

Alley Pearce, 17, of New Fairfield, Conn., is participating in Antietam Workcamp, and said it is her third work camp.

"It's such a great experience to get involved in," she said. "Your faith becomes stronger."

Storey said campers form relationships with the residents they are helping, and with other members of their group.

Mackenzie Frick, 17, also of New Fairfield, said she still talks to several friends she met at a workcamp she attended last year. Antietam Workcamp is her second.




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

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