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Lending a helping hand

Catholic Heart Work campers push through the heat and humidity to help a Detroit Lakes family restore the outside of their barn, as part of a missions trip. Photo by - Paula Quam1 / 4
16-year-old Chantel Hogie from Brookings, S.D. helps out at the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, playing and interacting with the children. Photo by - Paula Quam2 / 4
164 youth group volunteers from around the country are in town to help with 25 different projects around Becker County. Photo by - Paula Quam3 / 4
Volunteers at the refuge are working this week to paint and do landscaping. Photo by - Paula Quam4 / 4

There are 328 more helping hands around Becker County this week, as volunteers through Catholic Heart Work Camp are in the area helping those who need it most.

Sue Livermore of Detroit Lakes has been taking these types of missions trips with students from Holy Rosary for a few years now, last year going to Montana.

"But then I thought, why not have one in Detroit Lakes?" said Livermore, who helped organize the weeklong event.

Although some may picture missions trips taking place in areas of deep poverty or extreme need, Livermore says working with Mahube, they were able to track down several families or people in this area who need help.

"Many of them aren't necessarily impoverished, but maybe just can't do a lot of the things they used to be able to do either because of age or illness," said Livermore, who, along with other Detroit Lakes volunteers, helped set the big crew up at the high school.

Some blow up mattresses and a few classrooms and these volunteers were good to go.

The 164 teens and chaperones from six different states came into town Sunday and will work at 25 projects around the county until Thursday.

They're being broken up into teams and will work six-hour shifts with members of other youth groups as a way to cultivate new friendships.

While the Detroit Lakes students are helping to organize the camp, making meals and making the camp run smoothly, the out of town volunteers are hard at work in places like The Refuge.

"Few are the workers and much is the work," said Randy Kohler, director of the Refuge, "and so when groups like this come in, it's more than a double-blessing ... it's so awesome."

Kohler says the out-of-towners are working at The Refuge, painting the fence and doing some landscaping. "I love helping people, and I just think this is a really inspirational place," said 16-year-old Carlee Kalmis of Havre, Mont. "They (workers at the Refuge) are doing a really great thing for their community and it's really cool to meet them and be a part of it."

There are also workers at the Compassion House helping to get rooms cleaned, organized and ready for homeless men.

At their warehouse, volunteers are sorting and organizing items to be sold at the Helping Hands Thrift Store, which supports the Compassion House and Refuge.

Another crew worked at the thrift store, unpacking and getting items out to sell.

Over at the Boys and Girls Club, another handful of volunteers were working with the children there, interacting and playing with them.

"I think we kind of got the best deal," laughed 16- year-old Conor Quick of Milwaukee, who was helping to facilitate a coloring contest. "I think this is a great experience for the kids, too, because they're just meeting us and having to interact with new people, which is a huge life skill to learn early."

According to Livermore, the volunteer-students are also learning a huge life skill ... the art of giving.

"It just gives these kids the feeling that they really can make a difference, and hopefully they take this home with them and continue to do things like this in their own towns," said Livermore.

But for this week, it's this town that's seeing the fruit of their labor.

Such is the case for Kelli Tibbetts of Detroit Lakes, who was in a serious car accident in February that crushed her pelvis, punctured a lung, bruised her kidney and fractured several other bones in her body.

Not only has the mother of five had to undergo massive medical treatments, but she's had to quit her job doing daycare. Her husband, John, also had to quit his job in North Dakota to be able to care for their children.

This week, Catholic Heart Work campers are helping the Tibbets with a project they've wanted to see done for a long time.

"They're scraping and repainting my barn, "said Kelli Tibbetts. "It's opened my eyes to see how much of a blessing the church and community really are. I knew it before, but I've never experienced it first-hand."

And while most of the teens and chaperones are doing hard labor in sweltering heat, the volunteers say it's all worth it when the projects are done and they know they've helped somebody.

"I liked seeing people and their reactions -- people are always so grateful," said 17-year-old Emily Knopf from the Chicago area. Knopf was helping to work on the Tibbetts' barn and says she hopes the Detroit Lakes family like their work.

Crews are also out in Ponsford and Ogema.

But there is rest for the weary. After their daily shifts, campers head back to the high school again where they spend time deepening their Catholic faith and just having fun with new and old friends.

The students say they realize they could be doing hard work like this somewhere for money, but that isn't why they do it.

"The gratification they have is payment enough," said 16-year-old Katie Lapcewich of Milwaukee. "It also gives you the chance to see how other people live, and it makes you realize what you've got. Here you unplug and appreciate your own life more."

The crews will be wrapping up their trip to Detroit Lakes Friday with a "free day," where they get to explore the city and enjoy some well-earned time off.