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400 Teens Participate In Albany Work Camp

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Some 400 teens and young adults are in Albany this week, attending a work camp that has taken on repair and painting projects throughout the city.   First Presbyterian Church is sponsoring a work camp in Albany through July 5th to provide small repairs and painting at 70 sites in the South End. 

Participants from across North America and beyond settled in Sunday to prepare for a week of public service. Christy D'Ambrosio is First Presbyterian's youth Director.    "Our church is very interested in developing a generation of youth that will serve. That we step outside of ourselves and see the bigger picture and offer ourselves to the community. I think our society is in great need of that kind of an attitude."

The multi-denominational effort is oriented to address the rich-poor divide.  "Kids actually pay around $500 so that they can come to a community and offer up their labor, free of charge."

They signed up on the Group Workcamps website. Group is an international, ecumenical, volunteer, Christian youth mission trip organization that brings together teens and young adults for week-long summer work camps, in which participants repair or renovate homes in various communities.  D'Ambrosio was introduced to Group three years ago, and was inspired to spearhead an Albany session.    "And it's been a real huge project and I've worked on it the better part of two years to bring it to fruition. There were a lot of meetings with the city, with the previous administration and with the transition to the new administration, and with all of our corporate sponsors. All of these people have been very generous with their time and donations." 

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Campers at Myers Middle School about to head out to jobsites.

The campers are housed at Myers Middle School on Whitehall Road.    Erik Williams describes himself as "emcee" for the week.  He grew up in Valatie but lives in Oregon now; he runs the morning and evening programs at Myers.   "And we get to do music together and I also get to serve as campus pastor for the week. Never a dull moment, constantly going. I run out to the sites. I'll be headin' out here in half an hour to go visit sites and just encourage students, leaders, as they're out there serving the community."

Credit First Presbyterian Church, Albany
Campers take a break outside a work site.

Site Coach Spencer Nally of Hagerstown, Maryland, oversees nine six-person work crews, offering guidance and instruction to novice painters and carpenters.   "At every site there's a need for at least six people if not more. Some sites actually have two crews. One of the wheelchair ramps that we're building has two crews there just because its such a large project. I think there's just shy of 40 lateral feet of decking going down for one wheelchair ramp."

The ramp is being built for a woman in Arbor Hill who has been carrying her disabled adult daughter on her back, down a flight of steps every morning so the daughter can be driven to work. The project will lighten that family's burden.

Nally enjoys working with people in Albany.    "It's great to be able to give back in some way that meant more than just gettin' up and workin' 8 to 5. It sends a great message that there's people out there that wanna do the right thing and they wanna get closer to God and it just doesn't have to be church every Sunday. You can go out and serve other people and feel great doin' it."

On the morning of the program’s third day, young people said they'd made new friends and were forming new outlooks: feeling more confident, more compassionate, and more appreciative of the advantages they themselves enjoy at home. 

Chloé, a Canadian teen from Branford, Ontario, has been personally enriched.     "I can strengthen my connection with God because in the past couple years I've been having a lot of troubles. I think this is what I needed."

Tyler Luke trekked to the Capital Region from Oahu.   "We wanted to go on a mission trip that was far away within the United States and this is as far as it got. It's extremely different from Hawaii - definitely colder, different type of scenery and different types of people.  So we're just enjoying the diversity here and the opportunity to serve a different type of person."

Reverend Dr. Miriam Leupold is co-pastor at First Presbyterian.    "It is part of our mission at First Presbyterian Church to address and help to reduce the widening gap between rich and poor, and this is a very hands-on tangible way to do that."

Credit First Presbyterian Church, Albany
Workcrews on sites overlaying a picture of the "Welcome to Albany" dinner held for campers their first night in town.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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