Youth from nine different states spent week working on Winchester homes

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, July 26, 2022

For those who yearn to serve others, Winchester has always been welcoming.

This past week, Group Mission Trips – a faith-based Christian organization – brought nearly 170 kids to town from several states to assist others in home projects and grow in Christian fellowship.

“Winchester’s been a very, very welcoming community,” said Eric Lohe, Director of Winchester Group Mission Trip Camp. “This is the third time that Winchester has done this. It’s been a great, great environment.”

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Eleven churches from nine states, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas, were present.

Winchester City Commissioner Shannon Cox served as an organizer, helping to oversee applications from individuals in Winchester who were looking for home repair to be completed.

While the teens planned to work hard, they also outperformed expectations.

“We initially thought that they could do 28 projects this week, they finished a bunch of them early, so we’ve moved them to other projects,” said Cox. “We’re going to finish 39. We’re very pleased with how things have gone.”

Home repairs performed included tasks such as building and fixing porches and wheelchair ramps and completing both exterior and interior painting.

On one occasion, though it was not planned, a camper decided to mow a  lawn outdoors in 95-degree weather.

After a long day’s work, nightly activities helped to the keep kids engaged and well-fed. The activities included a water slide one night, a shaved ice truck, and cookies and milk night.

For every five to six teens, one adult chaperone was provided.

One of the youth groups that came along was led by Chris James, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Downers Grove, Illinois.

“This has been something that we as a church have been a part of for nearly 25 years…Spending one week sleeping on floors, and eating cafeteria food, and going anywhere they need us to go in order to bring some love to people in need”, said James. “The people here have been so generous.”

Also, during the camp, teens were given a Christian-based education.

One way this was done was through talking about God sightings, in which the kids identified circumstances where they felt God’s work was being done.

“When you get students the opportunity to get out of the environment, somehow they’re able to tune in a little more,” said James. “As we gather at sites, as we gather at youth group devotion … They’re able to see God doing amazing things. It is incredible to see faith being born again in each and every one of them.”

On Friday night – the last night of camp – residents from town who have had a chance to benefit from their service had a chance to speak.

Patricia Chenault, who had two bedrooms and a back porch painted and gutters fixed, displayed gratitude for the work completed.

“I really appreciate them doing what they’ve done and this program,” Chenault said. “I think this is a great camp and great communication for the kids to learn to love and help each other.”

The camp is hosted by the Winchester Community Work Group, a local organization dedicated to fixing homes with elderly, disabled or low-income residents.