Building Common Ground

Photo credits: Chip West

Let’s face it; teens often get a bad rap. But what happened when 309 youth from around the country descended on Rush County during one week in July tells a story that undoubtedly will warm the frostiest of hearts.


The teens were part of the Rush County Youth Group Workcamp. They participated in a week-long program and arrived full of energy, enthusiasm and even brought donations for our food pantry. They immersed themselves in the community to grow in Christian faith through service to others.


That service included much-needed home repair projects for elderly, low-income and disabled families in Rush County. The teens provided the labor. Donors, like you, provided the funds to buy the materials with a $10,000 grant made from Community Grants funds through RCCF. The teens painted; repaired and built porches, steps and wheelchair ramps and weatherized 43 local homes.


At the end of the week it was hard to tell who got the most out of the experience – the kids or the homeowners.


Chip West, our local Workcamp leader, said, “Our world and society communicates that life is all about ‘me, myself and I.’ The youth that participate in these workcamps learn that one of the most rewarding experiences in life is found in unconditionally helping others.” He noted, “Their outlook on life changes. They get to meet people from all over the country. They learn that all of us, while different, have a lot of similarities.”


The experience enriches the homeowners, too. It affects much more than the condition of their houses.


Chip shared, “The interaction between the teens and homeowners is so great to witness. They both get very attached to the other and have a difficult time saying goodbye at the end of the week. Many of the residents will share at our closing program how they wish the teenagers could stay longer!


When a group of four Girl Scouts from New Jersey and their two adult leaders arrived at their project, they found a disheartened, elderly lady. She had recently lost her husband and was battling health issues. She was clearly suffering, both physically and emotionally.


Chip recounted their story. “The work on this house wasn’t what made the biggest difference. It was how they loved this resident and made her feel like the most important person in the world. This group became a part of this individual’s family and vice versa. It was so awesome and heart-warming to see the relationship they built.”


The homeowner added, “It has meant the world to me. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them. They are the sweetest kids ever. They have made my dreams come true!


Chip Webb and his colleague, JB Gardner, are repairing more than porches and ramps. They are building common ground with their work. They’re helping youth discover the value in serving others. They’re showing them that in the big picture we’re all more alike than not. We just need a good friend or two or 300 in our lives.


Our gratitude goes out to Chip and JB, the teens who volunteered their time, the homeowners and community members who welcomed them and all of the donors who made this transformative experience possible! Team work makes the dream work; thank you, Rush County.

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