STEUBENVILLE - There were 52 students, staff, parents and alumni of Sacred Heart Griffin High School in Springfield, Ill., who left town Friday feeling happy.
They were happy they came, happy they helped and hopeful to return.
Their week-long stay in Steubenville was to participate in the J.O.S.H.U.A. program through Urban Mission Ministries, an acronym for Journeys of Service Helping Upper Appalachia. It is a work missions project for youth and adults who come from various parts of the country "to help make a difference in the living conditions of low-income residents of the Ohio Valley," according to the mission's website.
A REVAMPED WALL – A long wall at the North End Park in Steubenville got painting attention this past week when volunteers from Sacred Heart Griffin High School in Springfield, Ill., came to town as part of the Journeys of Service Helping Upper Appalachia project through Urban Mission Ministries. The wall painting was one of several projects the group tackled during their week-long stay. -- Janice R. Kiaski
That can translate into everything from painting and building handicap ramps to repairing floors and doing yard cleanup.
The Illinois group is one of about seven groups coming to the Steubenville area from June to August to tackle approximately 20 projects, according to Ronnie Snyder, J.O.S.H.U.A. director, and while the number of groups coming is down compared to years past, the workload is not.
"It's definitely down," Snyder said of the project participation. The reasons vary, he said. Some groups faithful to come for years have older volunteers no longer able to participate.
"And part of it is just because everyone is so busy, and it's hard to take a week off to come in and work," Snyder said.
There's a way for local people to help, however, with what time they have, Snyder said, as arrangements can be made for volunteers from churches, organizations or interested individuals to devote a day or two or what time they have to help.
Anyone interested can contact Snyder at (740) 317-8027 or at the mission at (740) 282-8010.
Groups coming for a week provide $175 each with money used to buy project supplies. They bunk at the J.O.S.H.U.A. House on South Seventh Street and are paired with a host church that provides some meals. The Illinois group had Second Baptist Church in Steubenville as its local host.
Phil Seck, a campus minister with Sacred Heart Griffin High School, said community service is one of the school's programs with a requirement to do 20 hours.
"By doing this project, they do 60 plus, and they raise their own money to come," Seck said, noting the school has come to Steubenville twice before. They learned about the program through a sister school in Chicago that also had participated.
Their week here involved dry wall, tile and porch work, house painting, wall painting and helping in the mission's Unity Kitchen.
Their trips to help in the Steubenville area have inspired them to help in their own community, too, according to Seck. Last fall they did 43 projects in two days.
"We kind of looked out the front door of our school and said there are houses within blocks of here that need our help," Seck said.
Some of the students on hand said they were glad to have been involved.
"It's really fun just being with everybody, and I wanted to help people, the main reason," said Diana Montgomery, who will be a senior.
Casey Von Behren, a graduate of the school, was on her third trip. "The feeling you get when you help people around you is amazing."
Riley McManus was on his first trip. "I've had a lot of fun helping people."
"It's a good learning experience," said Hannah Winders. "We learned a lot about each other, and it's been awesome to help the community."
"It would be really nice to get more groups in here. There is definitely great need," Snyder said, noting next week brings a small group from Wisconsin, representatives of Peace United Methodist Church.
In May, the program welcomed a group of 10 Methodist pastors, some of them local, who worked on a variety of projects, repairing a floor, fixing a bathroom and painting a porch floor.
The largest delegation will be a youth group with 64 people from North Canton.
Snyder said the program is a win-win for those on both sides of the improvement projects.
"I don't know who benefits more - the folks getting the work done or the folks doing the work," Snyder said.
"People leave with a great sense of accomplishment. God's grace is given to those who help and who are helped."