August 5, 2005

Catholic HEART Workcamp provides
needed service in southern Indiana

By Brandon A. Evans

For three years, Tammy Becht, youth ministry coordinator at St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County, took young people on weeklong service trips in different parts of the country.

Each time that they took part in a nationally organized Catholic HEART (Helping Everyone Attain Repairs Today) Workcamp, it was also with youth from all over the country.

Together, the youth performed maintenance and service for people in neighborhoods who couldn’t afford it themselves.

But this year, the southern Indiana youth stayed home—and hosted their own work camp from July 17-23.

Becht said that a year ago some of the parish youth suggested that they petition the Catholic HEART Workcamp, which has been operating sites all around the country each year since 1993, to allow the parish to host a camp in southern Indiana.

“I was blown away by their enthusiasm,” Becht said. But she was also a little intimidated at what it would mean.

Part of every Catholic HEART Workcamp—namely, the spiritual talks and worship sessions each night—is organized by trained teams.

All the rest of the planning is done by the local managers, who in this case were going to be Becht and her daughter, Jami. Hosting a Catholic HEART Workcamp meant bringing nearly 300 participants from around the country to the New Albany area.

So Becht prayed about it.

“It was like every door that we knocked on swung wide open for us,” she said.

Local planning had to account not only for organizing the participants into small work groups of about six, but also finding them a place to sleep at night—in this case, a middle school—and figuring out where they would all be serving each day.

Pete Roth, a member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish, was one of four men who used the suggestions of local organizations, including the New Albany Housing Authority, to find suitable sites for the youth.

Part of that job also meant visiting the home that the youth would help fix up and talking to the owners.

In one case, Roth said, he visited an elderly lady and told her about the youth that would come to help her.

“When she woke up the next morning,” he said, “she was so excited about what was going to be done that she thought that it might have been a dream.”

The woman, with the aid of a walker, slowly made her way inside her house to find the card that Roth had left behind—to prove to herself that it was real.

The work that the youth did was varied, Becht said, and ranged from painting curbs and cleaning dumpsters to clearing brush and mulching community playgrounds.

Jami Becht, who not only was a camper in the past, but also served on the national team one summer that helps to put the events on, recalled the work she did at a camp several years ago.

She spent the entire week with a small group working on one man’s house.

“He had ceilings that were falling in, walls that needed to be finished,” she said. “His yard was greatly overgrown. We painted the outside of his house. We did everything down to giving his dog a

And it wasn’t just the campers, or even the local youth from the parish who joined them, that were able to pull off the weeklong camp.

Tammy Becht said that members of the parish were “extremely involved” and did all sorts of things to make the camp happen.

Roth said that it was neat “to see how the parish took ownership of this in the volunteerism” they offered by cooking food, preparing the middle school and serving as runners during the service days.

The work that the parishioners did served not only to help those in need in the area to get help, but to give the campers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Jami Becht said that her experience as a camper made an impact on her life and humbled her.

She said that her hope for this year’s camp was that the young people would walk away with the same experience that she had.

It was a hope that was not in vain. Each day that the youth spent working did not drain all their energy, she said.

“They come back so rejuvenated, even after a full day’s work, because of the people that they work for,” she said. “They’re very humbled. You realize what you do have, and you’re so grateful for that.”

Roth recalled an incident during which Tammy Becht pulled aside the group of young people from St. Mary-of-the-Knobs who were participating in the camp and asked them what kind of work they had been doing.

“In every single case,” Roth said, “they didn’t talk about the work they had to do or how hot it was or how dirty it was. They wanted to talk about the people they were working for.”

“You could see the changes in the kids,” he said, changes that spread out even to the praise and worship sessions each night.

“You could see the kids open up and be less apprehensive about expressing their faith amongst their peers,” he said.

This will hopefully be an event, Roth said, that will be repeated in the New Albany area.

So much good was done, he said, that one of the scriptural connections made during the week was to link the work of the volunteers to Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the fishes and the loaves.

“What little we could provide,” Roth said, “[Jesus] really performed some wonderful miracles for some people in the area.”

(For more information about the Catholic HEART Workcamp, log on to †


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