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Workcamp participants gather at Centralia High School

Centralia Work Camp Kicks Off

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

The Centralia Work Camp is underway.  200 participants, including 157 members of church youth groups, have gathered in the city for a week of work on homes of residents who cannot afford to make the improvements themselves.  The participants are being housed at Centralia High School for the week and were welcomed to town by Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby Monday morning.  The director of the Work Camp is Tony Lowe of Aurora.

"27 places we'll be out working. Our crews have been working on getting materials out to the sites last week, and [this] morning we all met together and take off at the same time" said Lowe.

Lowe has been involved in the Work Camp program since being in a church youth group himself 27 years ago.  The sponsor of the program is the First Christian Church in Centralia.  Pastor Tommy Henegar has a 32 year history with the program, starting as a youth group member.   

"To see the stories of the residence...it breaks your heart. They say we aren't just building houses, we're building hearts. There is one wheelchair ramp we're building for someone who has not been able to leave their house in 18 months. That not only gives them a new aspect of life...it changes their life" said Henegar.

One of the youth involved is James Bassett of Auburn, Indiana.  His reason for coming....

"Meeting new people and experiencing new things...there are a lot of new people who I've never met before" said Bassett.

The group will work through Friday on their projects, taking Wednesday afternoon off to explore Centralia.  The event comes to an end with a 7:30 program on Friday night where homeowners who had work done are being invited to join the workers.  The workers will also bring food to the Friday night program to be given to the local food pantry.

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