A small army of teen volunteers took part in a week of service
By Dan Russo
CALMAR — By the end of Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) in Calmar July 7-12, 200 teens and their chaperones had worked hard in the summer heat. They painted, raked, cleaned and built — doing a wide variety of jobs for people in need they had only just met.
Delaney Fullencamp was among those who experienced the truth of Jesus’ teaching that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
“I went to three different houses,” said Fullencamp. “The first one we had to paint two different barns, and then the next, we helped stain a deck and helped paint the kitchen.”
She and her sister Sabrina participated in CHWC with about a dozen students and three chaperones from St. Malachy Parish in Rantoul, Illinois.
“I just liked how close I got to the people in my team,” said Delaney. “We got really close spiritually, and we talked about our faith.”
The Fullencamp sisters’ group traveled from the Diocese of Peoria to join other delegations from around Iowa and surrounding states. Upon arrival in Calmar, the youth were divided into mixed teams comprised of representatives from other areas.
“That’s part of the mission,” explained Sabrina Fullencamp. “You get split up from the group that you come with and are forced to make new friends and grow spiritually and make relationships.”
Students from the Christian Family School of Religion have been attending CHWCs around the nation and beyond for about 17 years. This time, organizers brought the program to their home base, according to Patty Frana.
“It was a wonderful week and tons of projects got done!” said Frana, who is director of high school religious education and a youth minister at the Calmar school. “We had 33 teams finishing around 50 projects! What a blessing to have CHWC in Iowa.”
Parishes from around the Archdiocese of Dubuque were well represented. Teens from St. Patrick, Waukon; St. Benedict, Decorah; Notre Dame, Cresco; Epiphany, Mason City; and St. Boniface, Garner, made the trip. Teens from the Family School of Religion come from the linked parishes of St. Aloysius, Calmar; St. Wenceslaus, Spillville; Our Lady of Seven Dolors, Festina; and St. Francis de Sales, Ossian.
Frana explained that CHWC is based in Orlando, Florida. The camp is founded on the principles of service, connection and loving others. The first work camp was in 1993 with 100 participants and has grown to over 14,000 campers each summer. CHWC provides youth groups, teens and adult leaders with service opportunities to restore homes and hearts, feed the hungry, lift the spirits of children, bring joy to the elderly and disabled, and offer assistance wherever needed, according to Frana.
Each camp is equipped with nine summer staff members, a director, a manager, a musician, a nurse and a priest. During the week, participants celebrate Mass and youth have the opportunity for confession and eucharistic adoration.
“It is a youth-friendly, Christ-centered week of caring for others while having fun and making a difference in our area,” said Frana.
The theme of the 2019 Calmar camp was “radiate.” The word was displayed on T-shirts worn by the Fullencamp sisters and other volunteers.
Sabrina Fullencamp explained that the workers’ goal was to radiate God’s love.
“(We want) to help show God’s love to people who are not necessarily accustomed to it and especially to people of other faiths, too, because not everyone that we helped were Catholic,” she said.
Sabrina was able to serve by stocking and cleaning a local food bank, while others on her team constructed a bathroom. On the way home, the St. Malachy group took a tour of St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque, mother church of the archdiocese.
The Calmar camp was the second in which the Fullencamp sisters have participated. Last year, they went to a CHWC in South Carolina.
“We hope to do it again next year,” said Sabrina.
A Catholic Heart Work Camp volunteer (right) poses with a resident of Calmar who was helped by the program. About 200 teens and chaperones participated in the camp, which took place earlier this month. (Contributed photo)