Pa. volunteers help local residents

ELKINS – A group of hardworking and dedicated teens, along with their supervisors, traveled three hours out of their way to help those in need and share their love for life this week.

The St. Thomas More Parish of Bethel Park, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh, brought enough workers to help staff eight different worksites throughout Randolph County.

The multiple sites in Elkins, Beverly, Mill Creek, Valley Bend and Huttonsville were discovered and reviewed through an application process done by Catholic Charities. Officials from Catholic Charities hopes St. Thomas More Parish comes back to the area each summer.

“Here we get to break out of our bubble and see what it’s like. It’s a humbling experience,” said Tessa Schoepflin, an 11th grade student participating in the program.

Schoepflin, along with many others, set out to raise $550 before participating in the mission trip. The entire group, raising a grand total of approximately $80,000, uses this money to help fund travel expenses as well as the construction project itself.

This year, all eight groups have worked on projects including siding removal and replacement, laying new flooring, replacing fences and even building handicap accessible furnishings.

At one particular home where they replaced a fence, Mary Frac said she discovered it meant more to the homeowner than she thought.

“He kept talking about the fence and took so much pride in it. You could just see the look in his eyes and now he’s so proud that he can say he’s the owner of the only white picket fence on the street again,” said Frac.

At the same house, Parish members painted lawn ornaments, worked with the yard space, and built a wheelchair ramp to help the homeowners gain easier access to their property.

“We get a lot of our supplies from Elkins Builders and 84 Lumber here in town,” said Father Jim Farnan, who helps oversee some of the progress on projects. He said often those two businesses will donate supplies after seeing the work the Parish has done for others.

Kelly Spadoni, who works in connection with Catholic Charities, says contractors and Catholic Charities officials will come and evaluate the project before the Parish begins work.

She said the volunteers, ranging in ages anywhere from 14 to 82 years old, learn valuable lessons by just being there and helping someone else.

“I always tell the kids that what they do for the residents is nothing compared to what they have done for the kids,” said Spadoni.

The group has been staying at the Bishop Hodges Catholic Pastoral Center in Huttonsville. They start their projects early in the morning and work until around 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

After their day of work is done, all the groups meet back up to share testimonials and learn faith-related lessons.

Extending their services from six homes two years ago to seven homes last year to eight this year, Catholic Charities will continue following up with the families that have been helped, in case more work needs done.

The week-long event is expected to be repeated next year, as participants will begin raising funds for next summer’s trip immediately upon returning home, officials said.