Each year, young people throughout the country volunteer their time to help those in need. Living their faith and answering the call to serve, they bring hope to families and individuals in low-income communities by helping them fulfill basic needs that many take for granted.
For many residents of rural, central West Virginia, volunteer help from youth is something they have been able to count on for 26 years through the existence of Nazareth Farm. The organization is a staple in the community, located in Salem, West Virgina. Angie Moloney, director of Nazareth Farm, said that the farm is a facility that provides young people with the chance to have the retreat experience while serving people in need.
From January through August, high school- and college-age youth from all over the country spend one week volunteering to help people in the area with home repairs ranging from roof work, installation of siding, windows, drywall, floors, painting and other repair needs.
“The work is hard,” said 22-year-old Matt Richardville of Fort Wayne, Ind., “but I feel joy knowing that I’m helping to make life better for people.” Richardville was one of many students from the University of Dayton who spent a week volunteering at the farm last May. He and other volunteers spent time fixing the roof and putting up new siding on the home of a disabled woman in the community.
“I came here last year and it changed my whole outlook on life,” said 20-year-old Leslie Pruniski, a student from the University of Kentucky who came a second time with her church group in May. “You learn not to take things for granted. Helping the people is one of the best experiences of my life.”
This was the first time 19-year-old Chris Paul of Indianapolis had volunteered for Nazareth Farm. However, he said that the experience was so positive that he would like to return in the future. “It’s meant a lot to me to help the people in this community,” he said. “I wasn’t sure at first, but when I got here I understood how important this service is.”
Work at a second site about 20 minutes from the farm found volunteers installing a new roof on the home of Joe and Norma Postlethwait. Working at the site was 18-year- old Amy Pendergast of Downers Grove, Ill., who has served as a volunteer for Nazareth Farm seven times in the last two years. What brings her back is the sense of sharing and serving with others her own age. She said that by volunteering at Nazareth Farm, young people are able to carry out the mission of Christ through the service work in the community.
“It’s part of the value of Christ that we are all joined together—we are all one body,” she said.
For 20-year-old Megan Murray of Brownsburg, Ind., who also was helping with roof work on the house, the sense of community she experienced with other volunteers at the farm has left an indelible impression on her.
“The work really brings God alive,” she said. It’s an example of “God showing up in real places through everyone’s actions such as building a new roof.”
This was the second time that volunteers from Nazareth Farm came to help the Postlethwaits with needed repairs for their home. The last project called for interior repairs including a new floor for the bathroom.
Help from volunteers was needed again as the roof of the Postlethwait’s home began leaking.
Joe said that he and his wife are extremely grateful for all of the assistance they have received from youth volunteers.
“It’s wonderful what they do,” he said, as volunteers were finishing up work for the day on his home. “If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t get anything done. They’re good kids.”
Moloney said that people who receive assistance from Nazareth Farm help volunteers in different ways, either with repair work or by sitting and sharing conversation. She said that Nazareth Farm operates solely on donations and from the support of many dedicated people in the Salem community.
Editors: Approximately 196,000 people across the country volunteer for Catholic Charities. For more information about volunteer needs go to www.catholiccharitiesusa.org. For information on Nazareth Farm, go to www.nazarethfarm.org.