The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 8, 2000 Issue
Local News

Reservation youth help and make new friends

Menominee students paint houses, do yard work and befriend Orlando elderly

By Nancy Ciambrone-Krause

Youth from the Menominee Reservation say helping others and making new friends with youth from all over the United States at the Catholic Heart Work Camp in Florida added up to a life-changing experience.

For the elderly people who they befriended - in addition to painting their houses and doing yard work - it was a breath of spring in the middle of a hot summer.

"Some people drive by our houses and only see the chipped paint from the outside. What these kids have done is step into our homes to know us from the inside out," said Miss Magnolia of Apopko, one of the many elderly homeowners who had their house painted.

"When you see young people giving so generously of themselves," added Miss Reynolds, "you know that love is at work and all I can say is 'Praise the Lord for all good things! The glory is the Lord's' "

As for the campers, they glowed from the praise and feeling of accomplishment.

"These people needed someone to care," said chaperone Sandy Waubanascum. "It was a great experience for me and I believe for our youth as well."

Danielle Kakwitch said her "adopted" Florida grandmother "made us all feel like her home was our home. She kept encouraging us to take breaks from the sunshine and even went out to buy us lemonade and soda. She didn't have much money so I know she was giving from what little she had. It made us want to do even more so we not only scraped and painted her house but also cleaned her yard."

"I'd like to go again," said Shawna Penass. "It was a lot of fun. We got to help people and also meet kids from all over the United States. I really liked that."

Natasha Robertson felt the same about meeting other youths. "Some have even called and stayed in touch since we got back from Florida."

For Eileen Tourtillott, it was a "cool experience. We got to see how God's love is in every person and we got to show the people we worked for that God's love was in us."

But the summer camp was not all work. Prayer and play were also a big part of every day. "Some of the prayer services were so moving that I cried," Robertson said. "That has never happened to me before. It really meant a lot to me."

Steve and Lisa Walker, former youth ministers in Orlando, started Catholic Heart Work Camp after attending an interdenominational service camp in Denver eight years ago. They now conduct 21 summer camps with a "Catholic twist" across the United States where young people ages 12-18 participate in a week of service, prayer and fun.

After four days of work, the campers were given a free day to explore Universal Studios. Then they returned to headquarters for Mass. Before the liturgy, Alysse Corn and Danielle Kakwitch of Menominee donned traditional dress and performed an Indian dance to deafening cheers and applause.

"Afterwards, people kept coming up to us to thank us and tell us what a great job we did," Corn said. "I had been nervous about dancing in front of so many people but everyone seemed to really like it."

Despite early risings, long flights, heat, humidity, ants and cockroaches and several other trials, campers give a resounding, emphatic "yes" when asked if they would return.

"The highlight for me," Corn said, "was helping other people and leaving them feeling happy and smiling. It was great!"

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