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Campers spread hope through work, faith
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By Fabvienen Taylor
       JACKSON — Limited to taking only a few steps safely with her walker in her house, Hazel Williams spends most days confined to her wheelchair.
       With no ramp to ease her wheelchair from her door frame to her porch and no ramp from the porch to the sidewalk, she rarely ventured outside, but thought often about it.
       “I wanted to get outside sometime and catch a little fresh air, listen to the birds sing, enjoy the sunshine,” said Williams.
       On Thursday, June 19, a group of Catholic HEART Workcampers helped Williams realize her dream as they lined up alongside the freshly-constructed ramp in her yard and watched as Williams, arms raised, completed her maiden voyage down it.
       “Thank you,” she told the group. “Now I can get out of the house and roll on the ramp down to the sidewalk. And I can sit out here on my ramp, enjoy the sunshine and listen to the birds singing. I can watch cars and people go by. I appreciate this, I appreciate you very much.”
       Across town in West Jackson, Rhoda Kalsheur estimated the group of campers who began working Monday, June 16, in the parish hall at Christ the King Church, saved the parish about $1,500 in labor costs.
       The five youth with their adult chaperone capped a water line and replaced old sinks and cabinets, scraped, sanded and painted the walls in five rooms, repaired a large hole in a wall, cleaned out the storage room and moved a load of garbage.
       “They got a lot done,” Kalsheur said. “When they finished a project they would come and ask what they should do next. They saved me a lot of steps. They did really good. They were very eager.”
       Fueling that eagerness to serve others is the main focus of Catholic HEART (Helping Everyone Attain Repairs Today) Workcamp (
       Its mission statement says: “The Catholic HEART Workcamp mission is to revitalize communities and beautify homes for the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford needed repairs. Our goal is to inspire participants to serve in their local communities.
       “Second: To empower participants to live as disciples of Christ through serving others. To foster the spiritual growth of each participant through the sacraments, Catholic faith sharing and prayer.”
       Each day, in addition to their work assignments, the youth spend time in spiritual reflection and prayer, free time and at the end of their work week, they take a day of recreation in the area.
       Amelia Rizor, St. Richard Parish junior high youth minister, served as manager for this year’s camp which was based at Madison St. Joseph School. This is the third year Rizor and St. Richard youth have participated in the workcamp. In addition, Rizor has taken a group to several workcamps in other states.
       “The goal is to have kids involved in service so they will see what they can do and then take it back to their own community,” Rizor said.
       Ten youth from St. Richard were among the 240 youth — 7-12th grades — and adult chaperones who participated in this year’s camp. It costs $295 to attend the workcamp.
       “Things went great, really well,” said Rizor. “There were 16 groups,” she said, with campers coming from Texas, New Mexico, Alabama, Kentucky, Colorado, Ohio and Louisiana.
       “It’s good to see our own kids involved in their local community. “I’m really looking forward to next year.”
       St. Richard youth Joanne Martin, 13, who worked in last year’s camp, returned this year. She helped paint the annex of the I. S. Sanders Y.M.C.A. building located in the historical Farish Street District.
       “Last year was really fun and was a great experience. I felt I grew closer to God. My main goal is to help people to see God in my works and actions and to help our society here.”
       The desire to meet new people and experience a different culture brought Randy Hernandez to Jackson from St. Mary Church in Sherman, Texas. “I also felt I could get closer to God through the spiritual activities at the camp,” said the 16-year-old. “I’ve enjoyed that.”
       For Amelia Ryland, 16, another opportunity to volunteer lured her from San Antonio where she attends Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church.
       “I really enjoy serving others,” she said. “Volunteering is one of my favorite things to do now. I just discovered, through prayer, that I need to serve the Lord with my hands and my feet. Also it’s really fun to meet so many people from so many different walks of life who have the same beliefs, same Catholic morals as I do.”
       Joshua Fleming, 13, also from Sherman, Texas, got his first taste of volunteering at a nursing home as a Boy Scout. On Thursday he was working at the Good Samaritan Center in Midtown.
       “I wanted to come and help people to get back on their feet. I liked painting and unpacking the furniture and stocking the shelves,” he said. ““It really makes me feel good when I know I am helping other people.”
       Brian Reinhardt, camp director who oversees all the work camps (40 this summer), said Jackson is great place for the camp.
       “Working in Jackson is awesome. We know there are great needs here and the people are great to work with. There are a lot of good people who come out to work with us and and help share their Catholic faith. We’ll be back next year,” he said.
       On Friday, June 20, Bishop Joseph Latino of the Diocese of Jackson celebrated Mass with the campers in the gymnasium at St. Joseph. “Just this week you made a difference in the lives of the people you assisted. You made them more hopeful. And hopefully,” he said, “your work made a difference in you, made you more hopeful so when you go home you will continue to make a difference in your own communities.
       “We commend you for the work you’ve done here, we congratulate you, we thank you for what you’ve done for us, and for what you’ve done for yourselves.”


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