Teens Helping Elderly, Low-Income, Disabled Homeowners

More than 300 teens from six states will be in Central New York this week to help improve the lives of community members in need.

The students will help repair homes for homeowners in need as part of the first ever Syracuse Workcamp, which is sponsored by Group Mission Trips in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Onondaga Hill Presbyterian Church in Syracuse.

The youth, who are 14 to 20 years old, will be in CNY from June 24 to 30.

Workcamps are intensive one-week trips that help people grow in faith through service. Individuals and youth from around the country will spend one week in the CNY community performing hands-on home-repair projects for elderly, low-income, and/or disabled families.

The work at each home will be done by five young people, and at least one adult leader, representing many Christian denominations. Both labor and materials are free to qualifying households.

“A couple years ago when Syracuse became dubiously noted as a leader in the nation among cities with the highest poverty rate, it was clear that it was time for us to bring a workcamp here,” said the Rev. Robert Langston, the pastor of Onondaga Hill Presbyterian Church.

Langston has lead 13 groups of students to workcamps in 10 different states over the last 16 years.

“I’ve seen first-hand what happens in the kids and the community when we partner together to do something like this,” he said. “It is so powerfully transforming, on many levels.”

The West Genesee Central School District will house the volunteers during their week stay. The students will sleep and eat at West Genesee High School.

“We are excited to be hosting such a large group of caring individuals who will be helping homeowners in our community,” said West Genesee Superintendent Christopher Brown. “We are equally appreciative of all of the local businesses that have also signed on to help make this workcamp a complete success.”

More than 70 adult volunteers will help the youth during the workcamp and over $55,000 has been raised to fund the mission.

There are 316 participants from New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and North Carolina. The youth will be working on 54 homes in and around the city of Syracuse. Paticipants pay $465 per person to take part in the workcamp.

Homeowners applied for the program in late 2017 and early 2018. Most of the homes are located in the city of Syracuse, but other worksites are in Nedrow, Camillus, Cicero, Clay, DeWitt, Liverpool, Marcellus, Skaneateles, Jamesville and Minoa.

The teens will be painting inside and outside homes, and repairing porches, roofs, siding and steps at the worksites.

“Obviously some of the sites can present challenges to the crews and the work can be very hard.  But in the process of that hard work, people grow in faith, make new friends and learn new skills that last a lifetime,” Langston said. “Most importantly though, I think the kids and the community really see and learn that it is truly better to give than to receive.”

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