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Teen workers help those in need, form lasting friendship

Dora Schultz welcomed workers with the Catholic Heart Workcamp into her home Wednesday. The teens and chaperon cleaned up brush for her and poured a new concrete sidewalk outside her house. The helpers were, from left, Emily Hom, Jonathan Willis, Rachel Stenzel, Greg Rayhons, Anthony Blomme and Lauren Buettner. DL NEWSPAPERS/Pippi Mayfield

From working with children to laying concrete, clearing brush to sorting clothing, the kids of Catholic Heart Workcamp are helping others throughout the Detroit Lakes community.

Wednesday afternoon, five kids and a chaperone were at Dora Schultz’s house in Detroit Lakes, helping her clear brush and pour a new concrete sidewalk. The 89-year-old woman appreciated the kids, and the teenagers thought she was pretty awesome, too.

“The kids have been so good. I feel young again,” Schultz said with a laugh. “I hate to see them go. It has been so fun.”

Through the work camp program, which lasts a week, Catholic churches from throughout the United States send groups of kids to various cities to do good deeds for those in need. The Detroit Lakes crew went to Memphis in June.

During their time in Detroit Lakes, organizers had 35-40 projects lined up for them, many through Mahube-Otwa. But the kids ended up doing more like 70 projects.

“The groups work too fast, so we had to find more work,” organizer Gary Hager said with a laugh. He and Sue Livermore are the Detroit Lakes coordinators for the program.

There are 14 youth groups serving in Detroit Lakes this summer from Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Once the kids and chaperones are all here, they are mixed up so no one in the groups know each other, forcing them to make new friends and work together.

Those helping at Schultz’s house Wednesday included Emily Hom of Lexington, Mass., Anthony Blomme of Forest City, Iowa, Rachel Stenzel of Arlington Heights, Ill., Lauren Buettner of McHenry, Ill., and Jonathan Willis of Caledonia, Mich.

All of them said they have been on these trips before — many of them multiple times — and enjoyed the experience so much that they signed up for another year.

“It’s a good experience and you can appreciate things in your life more. I always go home happier than I came,” Willis said.

Over their years at the camps, the teens said they have worked in daycares, organized clothes and sat with people with Alzheimer’s disease and just visited. Buettner said she has even learned basic plumbing and electrical skills, something she never thought she’d be learning.

Most of them agree that the more labor-intensive projects are more enjoyable, but that’s not to say the other projects aren’t fulfilling.

“There’s a different satisfaction with each one,” Willis said.

At Schultz’s house, she said the kids were great to talk to and get to know and worked hard to fix her crumbling sidewalk.

“They worked so hard. Those girls worked just as hard as the boys,” she said.

After a week of laboring together, the kids become lasting friends, something none of them have taken for granted. They recognize the friendships they have formed with teens throughout the country that they wouldn’t otherwise have met.

They all agree to keep in contact after the week is over and will likely stick to it, since they still keep in contact with friends they have met on past trips.

“We get along really well, since day one,” Buettner said of her group of five.

Not only do they make friends with each other, they have been making friends with the people they serve as well.

“They sit with us at lunch break. We get to know them,” Willis said of the homeowners.

Schultz visited with her helpers Wednesday, overjoyed that they were at her house. She said she was happy to invite them into her home and have them be a part of her day.

That goes for the chaperones, too. Greg Rayhons of Garner, Iowa, said that last year he chaperoned a group to Betsy Layne, Ky. This year, he said he’d go again if it was a little closer to home. Minnesota worked perfectly for that.

He also had experience in concrete, so it made him the perfect fit for the job at Schultz’s house.

“It’s all about the people we help out; the work doesn’t matter. That’s not where the satisfaction comes from,” Willis said.

The rest agree. Buettner said she never would have thought sleeping on a school gymnasium floor with no air conditioning and doing work for people she doesn’t know would be some of the best days of her life.

But when a group of people with the same goals and same love for God come together, it’s a meaningful time.

“You can see God in everyone here,” Stenzel said.

“Everyone has the same attitude,” Buettner agreed.

“It’s a transforming experience,” Blomme said. “You leave not the same person as before.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.