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Idaho: A trip to remember

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Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Forty-five Ellsworth people experienced a trip of a lifetime earlier this month.

No, it wasn't a trip to Walt Disney World. The contingent, made up of mostly youth, spent the week in Idaho painting and providing home repairs to an Indian reservation.

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The trip was coordinated by English Lutheran Church of Ellsworth. For about the last 10 years, English Lutheran has belonged to the Group Workcamps Foundation of Loveland, Colo., a non-profit organization that, since 1977, has provided six million hours of volunteer service directly to people in need, both domestically and internationally.

"They came home on a spiritual high," said English Lutheran Youth Director Deanna Traynor. "I think it was an inspiring week for them."

Besides English Lutheran, St. Paul's United Church of Christ and Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Ellsworth also participate in Group Workcamps.

Traynor said that, in past years, they've taken trips to the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota; Indianapolis; Savannah, Ga.; Barnesville, Minn.; and Puerto Rico.

"Each year, the numbers of people that have gone are growing," she said, adding their contingent was also made up of members that don't attend English Lutheran. "This is getting to be more of a community-wide event, which is the way we want it."

This year's trip took them to Kamiah, Idaho, located about 160 miles southeast of Spokane, Wash. The Ellsworth group spent 27 hours on a bus to get to Kamiah.

"Going out there wasn't bad," said Ellsworth resident Kevin Burgess, who attended the trip.

Upon arrival, the Ellsworth group met up with different churches from Indiana, New Jersey, Utah, Oregon and Washington.

Traynor explained the youths from different churches were then split into different crews with the purpose of getting to know each other. Most of the crews spent their time painting houses, while others did work repairing houses.

"All of the tools we had were ones we brought," Burgess said. In addition, the youths paid for their own way to attend, courtesy of various fundraisers throughout the year.

The crews usually spent morning and early afternoons working on the houses, while the rest of the day was spent on free time, gathering and prayer.

Burgess said some of the free time was used just looking at the outdoors.

"Amazing scenery," he said. "It was beautiful country."

At night, the group slept in classrooms in a local school with beds made up of air mattresses and cots.

"Fortunately, our classrooms were air conditioned," Burgess said.

Burgess recanted a story telling the cultural differences between the two groups. The bus driver who drove the Ellsworth group to Idaho spent the week with them at a local hotel. Burgess added that, a couple of times, a few local kids saw the bus and wanted to go inside of it because they've never seen one like that before.

According to its Web site, Group Workcamps exist "not so much about the 'service projects' (although the challenge is important), it's more about God changing the hearts of your young people...and the people that are served. The "work" fades, but the impact of selfless service and new relationship lasts."

"I think these kids like to give, otherwise they wouldn't have done it," Burgess said. He also agreed with Traynor it was a worthwhile week for those involved.

"I think for some of the kids it was really humbling to see how other kids live," he continued. "On one house we worked on, seven people with three families lived under it."

On their way home, the group wrapped up their trip, going whitewater rafting in Missoula, Mont.

"It was a wonderful, awesome experience," Burgess said. "I'm definitely going again next year."

For more information, contact Traynor at (715) 273-4617.

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