During last week’s camp, 200 youth repaired 21 homes throughout Sylacauga, Sycamore, Alpine and Childersburg, bringing the two-week total to 53 homes repaired and nearly 600 campers who volunteered their time to benefit Sylacauga and the surrounding areas — and camp director Paul Richardson said their work has not gone unnoticed.
“We have been amazed by the hospitality of this community,” he said. “Everybody we meet is so thankful for the work that’s been happening. We’ve had so much support from different organizations and individuals, like one man who grilled 250 hot dogs for us last night just because he wanted to do something for the campers. It’s just blowing my mind how welcoming everyone is, and that’s why we’re coming back for another two weeks next year.”
The Colorado-based Reach Workcamps is a nondenominational week-long Christian missions camp, ministering to low-income families through free home repairs. Working with local agencies and churches, the camp aims to be a life-changing experience for residents, campers and adults who attend. Home repair projects, conducted by youth groups under adult supervision, include roofing, painting, building ramps, railings and porches and other tasks. Aside from work, campers attend Bible study and nightly worship.
Seventeen church groups participated in Reach this week, traveling from 11 states, including Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Delaware and Illinois.
Jake Perkins, a 20-year-old camper from Monroe, N.C., spent most of his week building stairs and porch railing at a home in Sycamore. “This is my eighth year at Reach, and every time I go, I get something new out of it,” he said. “It’s always a great experience, especially for people in high school and middle school, to hear the word about Jesus Christ. It’s great, too, that teenagers can come out and do service jobs and show the older generations that there are young people who are willing to work and serve others.”
David Firth of North Carolina managed repairs to the home of Martha Bradford on Brentwood Street. He said the camp experience was special for several reasons.
“The majority of these kids have never been on a roof before and are afraid of heights, so they’re kind of overcoming a fear, all in the name of service” Firth said. “We’re here to serve, but it’s about the relationships, as youth groups, their relationships with Christ and with each other. These guys will keep up with each other for years. I just love doing Reach, because I love being with these kids, and I didn’t know any of them at the beginning of the week.”
Bradford said the week has been memorable for her as well, and the new roof she received is an answered prayer.
“This is a blessing,” she said. “I’ve had leaks everywhere, and I’d been trying to get it fixed, but I didn’t have the means, and I kept on praying for some help, and God answered my prayer when he sent these people. This has been the best thing. You just don’t know, you just don’t know.”
Richardson said camp organizers hope the homeowners they have ministered to during camp realize that “people care for them and that people aren’t forgetting them.” And for campers, he said their goal “is that they each take one step closer to Christ in their personal walk. We hope they learn they don’t have to come to Sylacauga to find a home to repair or a person they can get to know.”
Reach Workcamps, which was brought to Sylacauga through the efforts of First United Methodist Church youth group, will return for another two weeks of home repairs next summer. Richardson said they hope the city continues to build on the positive actions initiated this summer.
“Somebody was telling me last night how we’ve brought this new energy to Sylacauga,” he said, “but I feel like there was already an energy here to improve things. This is just kind of a boost. We go some places year after year, and they’re always in the same state and nobody is taking pride in their town, but good stuff is happening here.”
For more information on Reach Workcamps, visit www.reachwc.org or call 888-REACH-WC.