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Habitat for Humanity


Youth volunteers help families in Appalachia

Volunteers from Wilson Memorial Church in Watchung traveled to West Virginia to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. Volunteers pictured are:    Back row: Liz Bard, Gordon Whitley, Reagan Thomson, Owen Whitley, Michael Droege, Tom Williford, Roberta Smith, Paul Ost, Scott Higgins. Seated on steps (back to front): Dan Connolly, Winnie Bard, Katie Ellis, Emily Arditti, Catherine Higgins, Justin Scalera, and Mark DeTullio

For the third consecutive year, a group of 16 young adults and adults traveled to Appalachia to help build homes for those in need. The group departed from Watchung, NJ in late July and arrived in Pendleton County, WV. This region is one of the most impoverished in the US, with limited opportunities for full time employment, high cost of living, high unemployment rates, and low per capita income. Families in this region are routinely faced with challenges about how to allocate their limited incomes. In many cases, maintenance of their homes takes a lower priority to food and medical care.

The group from Wilson Memorial Church in Watchung partnered once again with the local chapter if Habitat for Humanity to help renovate a bunkhouse for future Habitat volunteers as well as to begin demolition of an aging and decayed home to make way for a newer and safer home for a local homeowner. As a result of the group's efforts, they left the region a little better off than when they arrived.

In addition to the substantial physical labor that the group contributed, they also raised funds from the community and congregation which allowed for a $1,500 donation to Habitat for Humanity to support further construction in the area. "We're proud to have had the opportunity to build safe and affordable housing in an area of the country that sorely needs it," said Michael Droege, Director of Youth and Family Ministries at Wilson Church.

The annual mission trip is part of a long history of the ministry of the church. The church has been building homes for those in need each summer over the last 15 years, including traveling to Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina relief and other endeavors in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Massachusetts.

Despite the efforts of Habitat in this region of West Virginia and the support from Wilson Church for the last three years, there is still a desperate need for decent housing in the area. This year the group had the opportunity to work side-by-side with the homeowners, who were excited to make way for a safer home for a grandmother and her special-needs granddaughter. "We were surprised to see the grandmother with a huge crowbar helping to demolish her home," said Catherine Higgins, a volunteer on the trip.

Wilson Memorial Union Church, located in Watchung, NJ is an interdenominational community church which strives to continually strengthen its links with the local and global community through acts of compassion and caring.