Catholic HEART volunteers connect with the community -- and each other

Audrey Scribner, left and Ryan Slupski, volunteers with Catholic Heath Workcamp, clean cabinets at a Fayette Street home on Tuesday morning. About 160 volunteers from across the country are completing projects around the county this week.

CUMBERLAND — About 160 volunteers from across the country are spending the week in Cumberland and lending a hand in dozens of area locations.

The group from Catholic HEART Workcamp is a mix of adults and youth from middle to high school ages. 

Catholic HEART Workcamp was founded in Florida in 1993 and Bishop Walsh School has hosted the campers for the past seven years.

On Tuesday, 28 teams of campers and team leaders were spread throughout the community. One such team returned to Margaret Scott’s house on Fayette Street to help out with some cleaning.

After scooping up six bags of yard debris — from branches to leaves and everything in between — the day before, the group went about scraping paint from an outside door and cleaning walls inside.

It was the second year in a row that a group from Catholic HEART helped Scott out. Last year they cleaned her garage.

“I really appreciate the work they do,” said Scott. “Their labor is wonderful.”

Danielle Schoenfeldt, the team leader at the Scott house on her first mission trip with Catholic HEART, scraped paint off a door with the help of Garett O’Brien of Illinois.

Shoenfeldt, a religious education leader in Waterford, Pennsylvania, said she heard about the program from a friend just before the sign-up deadline in September.

“On the day we had to register, I just went in and registered 10 spots,” she said. “I had one person going, and that was me. I recruited and recruited. I literally filled my team of 10 spots the week before we came because I encouraged my niece to come.” 

Teams in the field are made up of volunteers from all across the country that were mixed together, in the hope of building a sense of community amongst participants. Each team member was given a responsibility like tool supply manager or break coordinator.

“There’s a lot of responsibility placed on the kids and they can totally handle it,” Schoenfeldt said. “It’s been a wonderful experience. There’s a nice balance between spirituality ... and service.” 

What shone through from the volunteers’ perspective, however, was a general excitement about connecting with each other and with the community.

“There are lots of games and things that are going on, so lots of opportunities for the kids to get to know each other, for the adults to get to know the kids,” said Schoenfeldt. “I love the opportunities when we get to talk to the residents because it’s about building relationships.”

“It’s nice to help out people. Our group is pretty fun to hang out with,” said Ryan Slupski, who’s from the Erie, Pennsylvania, area. “I thought it would be a cool experience, so I said yeah. It’s been fun. It’s interesting scraping paint. I found out I’m good at trimming bushes and cleaning walls.”

The group at the Scott house gathered for a lunch break out on the sidewalk. Sitting in a circle, having passed around sandwiches, Audrey Scribner led the group in a pre-lunch prayer as a drizzle of rain fell from the sky.

“I think that there are good people in this world now,” said Scott. “Before, I had my doubts, but since I’ve moved back here. It does take a village.”

Nearby at Cumberland Theatre another group, headed up by team leader Brenda Kendrick, went about cleaning the theater’s upstairs prop room.

Kendrick, a Missouri resident who drove to Cumberland, is in her second year with Catholic HEART, and her team of three shared a sentiment with the Fayette Street team.

“I love the connection with the people, and to do things for them and what you get out of helping other people,” said Kendrick.

Volunteers also worked Tuesday at Salem Children’s Trust, Goodwill Industries, North Star Church and Family Junction.

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