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Teens showing heart through workcamp

Photo by - Libby Larson/Tribune

For the second summer, the Catholic Heart Workcamp is making a positive difference in the surrounding communities, while providing an enriching experience for the youth and leaders involved.

Gary Hager and Sue Livermore are again serving as local hosts to the national program. Last year, 168 campers attended, and the number has expanded this summer to around 250 people. The program will be in the area from July 21 through 25.

The mission of the national Catholic Heart Workcamp is in equal parts to provide service to others while inspiring participants to live as Disciples of Christ through their service to those in need. 

This call to serve has attracted volunteers from Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, and Minnesota in grades 9 through college aged, with older chaperones in attendance as well.

Detroit Lakes is one of 50 sites around the country participating in the CHWC program this year.

Workers have been sent to surrounding communities to lend a hand with house repair, as well as to the Refuge, Compassion House, Helping Hands, the Compassion House Warehouse, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Detroit Lakes and Perham, and to the local thrift store.

Hager said, “a huge thanks goes out to Mahube Ottawa and the Refuge,” major sources which provided projects for the group.

Several of the teams of youth will be working on the exterior of homes, “so the resident can keep the house in good repair,” said Hager. He also said that campers will be helping to de-clutter and sort through items, to help people “get their properties back in order.”

It’s an effort that makes a large impact on Pat Keener, a local homeowner. “The kids are doing wonderful,” she said, as a team scraped the siding and repainted her house. “It’s fantastic how they dig right in.”

Hager agreed. He said of the campers, “they are very adaptable to their situations — it’s been awesome.”

“The Holy Spirit is very evident throughout this week in the Catholic Heart team and groups. As the week has been progressing it’s just been absolutely phenomenal.”

Campers Annie Allen from Kansas, on her third CHWC experience, and Keegen Richards from Wisconsin, on his second CHWC trip were members of teams 14 and 15, which joined together to work on repainting a local residence.

“It’s cool to come as two groups,” Richards said of working together.

“We do smaller things like this in our town,” Allen added. “I like coming out here and meeting new people.”

Richards agreed. “I like it a lot. It’s a lot of fun to meet people from different states and to help out in the community.”

Dean Rabideaux, a member of the local St. Mary of the Lakes congregation, wished to express his gratitude to the workers who have helped repair his elderly parents’ home.

“These people have made a really huge difference,” he said of the youth and chaperons.

Within the span of two days of work, Rabideaux said that his parents’ garage, home, deck, and boathouse have all been re-stained, acts of kindness that have deeply touched his family.

“They’re just great, they’re making our community a better place,” he added.

The workcamp is headquartered in the Detroit Lakes Middle School for the week. Campers will sleep in the classrooms, providing their own air-mattresses and bedding.

“We’re very thankful for the school district and for their efforts to make the showers accessible,” Hager said.

The Middle School will also be the site for evening activities, including a dance party, visit from Tim Eggebraaten, and Eucharistic adoration. On Thursday, the campers will get a chance to see how their work has touched lives in the area.

“Residents will have the opportunity to share the degree of impact that what these kids did have made in their lives,” Hager said.

Campers will also have additional opportunities to explore and connect their faith to their experience during the week. “We’re blessed to have 10 priests from the area,” Hager added. Bishop Hoeppner from Crookston will also be in attendance.

With staff members from CHWC providing tools and guidance for campers to make the most of their experience in the area, both participants and the community will benefit from the service and growth that is fostered through the program.

“It’s just a blessing,” Hager said.

For more information about the Catholic Heart Workcamps, visit

Libby Larson | DL-Online