(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
Twelve young people from St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Creve Coeur repaired and painted, cleaned and hammered, giggled and talked for three days as they worked at Lilbourn's Delmo Housing Corporation. While they learned a little about construction, they learned a lot more about themselves, service to others and a part of their state they had never seen before.
The young volunteers, ranging from seventh through 12th grades, along with their five chaperones are part of the church's Christian education program. Every other year the group takes a mission trip.
According to chaperone and worker Rick Sharp, the youngsters are part of three separate youth groups at the St. Louis suburban church. As part of the youth education program, the groups focus on real life issues, including providing service to those in need.
This year, intent on staying in state, they traveled to the Bootheel.
Amy Conard scouted the project several months prior to the group's Thursday arrival. For the Delmo Corporation, they repaired and painted the building where the community hopes to create a senior citizens center. Also they worked shoulder to shoulder in a small house, originally built in 1842, that Delmo hopes to renovate into a museum and guest house.
Conrad said the trip was an opportunity to learn more about their state's history. "I've learned about sharecropping, more about our state's environment," she said then nodding toward a group of painters, "and about the kids."
The group arrived bringing all the supplies, tools and dedication they would need for the three days and two projects. While Delmo hosted a fish fry Saturday for the group, the young people and their chaperones paid all the costs associated with their room and board.
They began their workdays about 9 a.m. and despite the close quarters and no air-conditioning would labor throughout the day with breaks for meals and an occasional game of kickball.
"You have to do some fun things," said Sharp, noting some of the volunteers are as young as 12. "Some really get into it and do a better jobs than others. But they are learning about the work ethic."
And there is a lot of work being accomplished. Laura Smith, 14, rolled paint on the wall and said her muscles ached after the first day. "I didn't even know I had these muscles," she admitted.
"This house is a lot of work," added 14-year-old Joanna Njama.
As Njama and 15-year-old Katy O'Brien tackled the painting on an adjacent wall, they agreed the opportunity to help drew them to the project and they knew it would be fun as well.
"And as a youth group, this will make us closer. But I'm not used to all this work," said O'Brien. "I get really, really tired."
The group gets high praise from the Delmo members.
"They are doing excellent work, we hope they enjoy themselves, feel good about what they are doing and learn at the same time," said John Terry, Delmo's director. "It is encouraging to know that there are people out there who are concerned and willing to put fourth an effort for those who are trying to help others."
Calling this group a "a milestone" for the local program, Terry explained back in the '60s and '70s, Delmo often benefited from the manpower brought by student-volunteers but this is the first group in several years to come to Lilbourn to assist.
"We hope this is the real start of good things to come," said Terry. "A rejuvenation."