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July 4, 2018

PLATTSBURGH – “We’re not just praying, and we’re not just singing or leafing through a bible. We’re doing all Heart Campthat, and we’re going out and serving in the community and making a difference.”

That’s how Catherine Bracy, 19, of Carthage described Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC), held June 24 to 30 at Seton Catholic in Plattsburgh.

This year’s local camp drew 260 people from around the diocese, as well as from around the country. The camp focuses on the corporal works of mercy, building faith and building connections with others.

“We have youth groups here from Minnesota, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Syracuse, and we have a group from St. André’s parish in Malone, and a group from St. Mary’s in Fort Covington, and a participant from Carthage,” said Jocelyn Kelly, co-manager for the local camp. “When they arrive at camp, we divide the groups into work teams. Each adult leader will have teens from all different youth groups on their team.”

Each day of camp starts around 6 a.m. with wake-up call and breakfast. A morning program, generally comprised of music, prayer, skits and/or witness talks starts the day. The youth then gather for Mass each morning before leaving for work sites around 8:30.

This year, the camp has 85 different work locations. While around 85 percent are private residences, the youth also perform service at nursing homes, churches, a youth camp, a museum and other locations in and around Plattsburgh.

“We work with local social service organizations and the local churches to identify individuals and organizations that have needs,” Kelly said. “We reach out to the individuals identified, and they apply for assistance. Once they’re approved, we go out to the work sites in the weeks ahead of camp and assess the needs. We look at what kind of tools, expertise and equipment we’ll need.”

According to Samantha Poulin, camp co-manager, the work typically includes such tasks as yard work, painting, cleaning, repairing hand rails.

“The teams also visit with the homeowners,” she said. “Some of them are lonely, and that means as much as the work performed.”

The teams typically wrap up their work for the day between 3 and 4 p.m. They return to Seton Catholic, for a break time, dinner and evening program.

“Evening program goes from huge energy to very quiet and prayerful,” Kelly said. “Tonight, there’s a dance party followed by adoration. It’s amazing to see how quickly everyone transitions.”

Other night programs include opportunities for confession, witness talks, praise and worship and prayer. Thursday night, the homeowners and organizations assisted speak to the teens.

“It’s amazing to hear how the experience impacts the people who’ve been helped,” Kelly said. “They talk about how the experience changes their impression of today’s youth, of faith and of the church.”

And they aren’t the only ones impacted.

“We get to help people and meet people who otherwise wouldn’t come into our lives,” said Emily Healy, 15, of Fort Covington. “We really get to make a difference.”

“I think most of us would say it strengthens our faith, but we’re also helping people,” said Lauryn Petrelli, 16, of Malone. “And, if nothing else, we’re building life skills. A guy on my team is 15 years old and had never pulled weeds. We’re all learning new things.”

This year marked the camp’s fourth year in the diocese. Next year’s camp is also tentatively scheduled for June 23 to 29.

To learn more about CHWC, visit heartworkcamp.com.

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