By Christina Galeone, Contributing Writer
Westborough – “At work camp, I learned how to love others and how to love myself, and I came home with a new relationship with God,” said Katey Allen, a member of the Congregational Church of Westborough. The teenager was one of the 32 teens and seven adults who participated in a recent church service trip to Guilderland, N.Y. Moved by the experience, she seems to have articulated the feelings of many who spent a week repairing homes for low-income households.
In July, the church youth group embarked on its highly anticipated annual journey to help people in need, organized through the Group Mission Trips organization. Founded in 1977 by Group Publishing founder Thom Schultz, the nonprofit organization brings nearly 500 teenagers and adult leaders from across the United States together to repair homes. The camps also include nightly interactive programs that help the participants explore their faith.
Linda Borglund, one of the Westborough group's adult leaders, said that this year's programs were particularly good.
“[They were] very spiritual but not too overwhelming spiritual, because there's a lot of kids who come who aren's spiritual, and then realize that their faith is stronger than they think,” she said.
Those spiritual experiences, through the camp programs and volunteer work, have been part of the Westborough church's youth group since 1998. It was then that church member Brenda Lord started running the trips. As the daughter of a physician residing on a Native American reservation, she saw the impact that church youth groups had on the residents” lives, when they went there to help those in need.
When she heard of Group Mission Trips, she didn's hesitate to start a trip at the church she and her husband Rich had just joined.
On this year's trip, Lord saw the positive impact of the youth group fully realized as volunteers worked on a range of projects. Borglund and her crew helped beautify a resident's rock garden, so that she and her son could display a memorial plaque for her late husband. Rich Lord's crew helped a person who had been confined to his home.
Lord said that many of the home improvements involve building wheelchair ramps.
“And that, if you can imagine, is pretty transformative for somebody who literally can's even get out of the house,” he said.
But it wasn's just the residents” lives that were transformed. The students experienced a transformation as well.
“It makes a difference in their life to be able to make a difference, to be able to go help somebody out,” Lord noted.
Sarah Bock, a high school student who participated in the trip, agrees.
“Work camp is a week full of powerful and humbling experiences that I will carry with me throughout my life,” she said.
The trip, which is open to students from any church or faith, has become a big part of the Congregational Church of Westborough.
“I know our youth look forward to going every year. They really enjoy going to work camp,” Borglund said.
Audrey Lord, Brenda and Rich Lord's teenage daughter, added: “It's a great feeling at the end of the week when you'se accomplished so much with five other people you had never met.”