Service trip a life-changing experience
A cultural shock awaited teens who traveled to Appalachia last year but when it was time to return to their middle-class suburban homes, they found it difficult to part from the needy families they served.
Amanda Musolf, 16, and Sam McKenzie, 17, two of the St. Marcelline Roman Catholic Church teens who will return to Appalachia, will travel July 11 to 20 to Mingo County, W.V., during a pilgrimage under the auspices of the Appalachian Service Project.
The teens, both students at Schaumburg High School, along with 23 other teens, three young adult leaders and 13 adults, each paid $775 to make the journey to build room additions, repair worn floors, plumbing, siding, roofing and fixtures and even to shore the foundation. They will camp in a local school.
There's no gender bias - 17 of the teens are girls, according to Marcelline youth minister Howard Grossman, once an ace real estate broker who gave up his career and opted instead for full-time lay ministry at the Schaumburg church.
The daughter of Roger and Cheryl Musolf, Amanda follows in the footsteps of her brother, Bryan, who was part of the project for four years. She looks forward to this year's experience even though last year she and her team worked six to eight hours a day to build a room addition for a family in danger of losing custody of a grandchild. The child needed a separate room, according to dictates of that state's social services department.
"It's a totally different culture and experience for us but the highlight is the people," Musolf said. "They are kind, open, warm and welcoming."
The son of Jim and Maureen McKenzie, Sam McKenzie, who will make his third trip to Appalachia and was on the same team with Amanda, agrees with his colleague.
"Realizing that our family would stay together was the most important aspect to me," McKenzie said. "I believe the effort gives to people who don't have what we take for granted. They don't have electricity or running water and we don't even think about it when we run water or turn on a switch."
Grossman reveals that the disciples, who pay for the privilege of aiding the poor, will work on six homes as they split into teams typically consisting of five teens and two adults and recounts the threads from the last eight years.
"What I love is that I twist their arms to make that first trip but by the time they are ready to leave they've found family," the youth minister said. "They fall in love with the people, folks they never would have known."
After a rocky start this year - costs prevented the group from shipping the 30 wall panels they prebuilt - Schneider National Inc. of Green Bay, Wis., offered a big yellow truck to deliver the 4-by-8 foot panels.
"How it all comes together is beyond me. I believe it is the Holy Spirit who guides the volunteers through the whole experience and helps them do what they didn't know they could do" Grossman said. "It's a way to change poverty."