As the sweet smell of banana bread wafted from the oven at the rear of Rita Mack's home Thursday, volunteers hammered nails into new boards on the front porch and repaired a basement window frame.
As the sweet smell of banana bread wafted from the oven at the rear of Rita Mack’s home Thursday, volunteers hammered nails into new boards on the front porch and repaired a basement window frame.
Teenagers and adult chaperones from churches in Illinois and southwest Wisconsin joined together for the tenth year of Mission Camp, repairing six homes around America’s hometown from Monday, June 22 to Friday, June 26, camp director Laura Widstrom said. The mission camp participants made a positive impact on Mack through compassion and repair work on several areas of her home.
Mack baked banana bread Thursday morning, marking one of the many times she offered treats like fudge and cookies to the Mission Camp volunteers at her home at 521 Union Street, first-time camp participant Clay McCartney said.
“We use our gifts for her and she gives these gifts to us,” said McCartney — who visited from Lancaster, Wisc. “It’s the face of God.”
Mack remembered feeling discouraged before the camp volunteers arrived, wondering if somebody would come to help her. After Mac received a letter from Douglass Community Services, she had her answer.
“God brought them right to me,” Mack said. “I feel so blessed while they’re here.”
Camp director Linda Bjur patted her stomach.
“We’ve been pretty blessed, too,” she said.
Throughout the week, high school volunteers and adult chaperones refinished and installed a door in Mack’s kitchen; replaced boards on the front porch; replaced sections of soffit on the home’s side and repaired window frames with old termite damage, Widstrom said.
The group of small churches has become a family for the participants, and the yearly camp is “family reunion time,” Widstrom said.
Mack felt the familial ties as well.
“I feel like they’re close to me, like they’re my family,” Mack said.
“Your long-distance family came,” Widstrom said with a smile.
The Mission Camp is organized by Christ United Methodist Church in Rockford, Ill. Camp volunteers and chaperones stayed at Clover Road Christian Church and showered at the Hannibal YMCA. Douglass Community Services provided “pre-screening,” so the volunteers connected with people who needed their help, Widstrom said.
This is the fifth camp Widstrom attended in Hannibal. Fellow camp director Nancy Moore recalled how the group blossomed from six children and two adults in 2003 to 21 kids and eight adults in 2015.
“That’s how God works,” camp director Brenda Mezera said.
“Our motto is to make homes safer, drier and warmer,” Widstrom said.
All of the volunteers were doing just that, performing outdoor repairs at five of the six repair sites, Widstrom said. The weekly rain made the jobs challenging, but the volunteers didn’t seem to mind.
“If we try down here, we will have a bigger impact on the community,” McCartney said.
“Small things in everything make a big difference.”
“It’s my first year.” Lancaster, Wisc. resident Amberielle Schwab said. “I think it’s good to do this for older people.”
Third-time camp participant Ruby Kwallek — also from Lancaster, Wisc. — cherished the feeling of helping someone.
“I really love when you finish the project,” Kwallek said. “You get this overwhelming feeling of happiness.”
Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org .