Effie Benz of the mission group YouthWorks paints a landing recently at The Priory retreat in Chestertown while her fellow workers Madison Wiedehoeft (left rear) and Austin Maconty watch her progress. The three were among 700 teens who visited northern Warren County this summer, and worked as volunteers sprucing up churches, homes of the elderly and various municipal facilities.
Sister Connie Messitt of The Priory in Chestertown watched a dozen or so teenagers of the mission group YouthWorks painting trim in rooms of the sprawling building that serves as a retreat for people seeking spiritual renewal.
Weeks earlier, another dozen youths from the group had helped set up tents and arrange the thousands of items featured in The Priory's annual big Garage Sale event.
“It don't know hove we could have gotten all this work without their help,” Messitt said, looking at walls in The Priory that had been painted earlier in the week. “They have such a wonderful spirit and energy.”
For 11 weeks, a total of more than 700 teenagers from YouthWorks have been in northern Warren County working to fix up about 20 homes of the elderly as well as working on local municipal beautification projects for municipal and church entities.
YouthWorks, a Christian organization based in Minnesota, sends volunteers out to 76 mission sites across North America.
This is the fifth consecutive summer they’ve sent a series of mission trips to northern Warren County.
Their 2011 mission here, which came to a close recently, included a variety of projects.
The group has mended fences, repaired sagging porches, cleaned up overgrown yards, weeded gardens, and painted dozens of houses, both inside and out. Their work has been accomplished primarily in the towns of Warrensburg, Johnsburg, Stony Creek and Bolton, YouthWorks site leader David Kawatski said.
In years past, YouthWorks has built equipment and helped run the local Art & Nature Camp program in Johnsburg, renovated dugouts at the town ballfields, and spruced up church sanctuaries.
The Youthworks group has been based in Warrensburg, with the girls staying overnight in sleeping bags on the floors of classrooms at the First United Methodist Church, and the boys in similar accommodations at the Pentecostal Holiness Church. In their rare spare time, they were hiking, swimming, socializing and worshiping.
Kawatski said the program annually introduces youth to community service while they learn about the local culture, and form relationships with people of all generations.
“We have really enjoyed meeting the people we’ve worked with and learning about the area,”he said. “We’re already looking forward to coming back next year.”
Teresa Whalen of Warrensburgh Beautification said the YouthWorks volunteers worked with her several times per week groups at various sites around town.
The youth landscaped at the Warrensburg town hall, the Warrensburgh Farmer’s Market, the various local school gardens, and at the town Senior Center.
They cleared property, plus planted native species along Main St., at the schools, and at town parks. Also, at the Warrensburg Community garden, the teenagers planted an asparagus bed, and built a set of composting devices, Whalen said.
“It’s inspiring to experience their incredible spirit of volunteerism,” she said. “And it’s exciting to get all these projects accomplished — YouthWorks is a wonderful program.”