Stay at Home camp spends week at work locally

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A group of supervised teens sloshed Monday through the shallow water of Girty's Run in Millvale, helping to clear overgrown vegetation from its path.

The volunteers had to climb down a ladder into the creek, and the nine youths and two adults formed an assembly line.

The Rev. Blair Morgan, director of evangelical missions for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, lopped branches off the thick greenery and handed the branches off to a volunteer who loaded them into big containers. Others, including Bill Geidel of Shaler and Melanie Terkay of Millvale used cords to pull them up to the deck of the Frederick Street Bridge.

"We're helping to facilitate the flow of the creek, which tends to flood," Mr. Geidel said. "We will be cleaning up the creek all week."

It's the second year of participation for Carly Heller, a member of Christ Lutheran Church, and Kim Yurasits of Reserve. Explaining why she volunteered, Carly said, "I realized doing a good thing for the community affects me in a positive way."

The group was participating in a Stay at Home Mission Work Camp focusing on helping people close to home. The camp is based at Christ Lutheran Church in Millvale, whose pastor, the Rev. George Mendis, said this year's work camp this Monday through Friday has 85 volunteers from sixth grade through senior citizens, up from 37 in 2010.

"This is our fifth year helping seniors and low-income people to live safe and secure. We partner with North Hills Community Outreach to find families through its Faith in Action Program," said Pastor George, as he is known.

This year's projects include painting, carpentry, cement work and other repairs at 12 homes, in addition to the Girty's Run cleanup. Homes in Millvale, Shaler, Wexford, Gibsonia and Avalon were targeted for repair.

"The young people are mentored by adults. They learn to paint and do concrete work, and we try to match the kids to the jobs," Pastor George said. "We have people with those skills to help us."

Volunteers also came from six other Lutheran churches: Bethlehem Lutheran, Shaler; Good Shepherd, Greensburg; St. Mark's, Brookline; Trinity, Butler; Trinity, Gibsonia; and Zion, Harmony.

One of the recipients, Jean Bearley, 70, finds it hard to complete the work around her Sample Street home. She responded to a notice in a senior magazine offering help and praised the work done Monday by a group of five young people and two adults.

"They were a great bunch of people. They painted two big fences and the patio area. Later this week, they will do some cement work around the foundation, which was damaged by water coming through. I can't believe there are such good people out there," she said.

The workers live at Christ Lutheran Church all week, and volunteers cook their meals and prepare lunches for them to take on the job.

"There are probably another 25 people involved in the food preparation," Pastor George said.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans provided financial support, and workers pay a $75 fee, which includes food and a T-shirt. The Sisters of St. Francis at Mount Alvernia allowed campers to shower at their Scotus Hall.

Plans include a closing service of Holy Communion and an ice cream social today with activities wrapping up Friday.


Virginia Miller, freelance writer:


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