A group of teenagers from Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Mississippi met poverty in Memphis this week through Catholic HEART Workcamp and Catholic Charities of West Tennessee (CCWTN).
Catholic Charities served as one of 20 volunteer sites in Memphis for the mission-oriented Catholic youth camp that brought together 138 young people from all over the country for a week of service, worship and activities. St. Benedict at Auburndale High School serves as home base for the campers.
For Riley Johnson of Shiner, Texas, the Memphis trip was her third Catholic HEART Workcamp experience. “Being a Christian, you are supposed to serve people, but this (Catholic HEART Workcamp) is the only Christian camp I have been to where you are actually serving.”
The group kicked off their week at CCWTN with a neighborhood cookout at the corner of Jefferson and Cleveland, where Catholic Charities is located. The teens served hot dogs to the agency’s clients, as well as people in the neighborhood who are experiencing homelessness.
“It was really eye-opening and touching for me to see that because I have not experienced the homeless,’’ said Philip Pilat, one of the adult chaperones for Catholic HEART Workcamp, who is from Shiner, Texas.
The campers also served in the Food Pantry and Clothing Closet at Catholic Charities, and did painting and cleaning projects. In addition, they assembled women’s hygiene kits that CCWTN gives out to clients and the homeless who come into the lobby.
Summer Brewer, 16, of Laurel, Miss., said the experience “teaches you some really good life lessons, like how to paint, and that being nice to someone can really mean a lot of them.”
Drew Eickman, 17, of Rome, Ga., said, ““This has really enhanced my faith life. I would love to start some faith-involved community projects in my hometown.’’