NEW PARIS — National Trail is looking at bringing a new summer program to town in 2018. During an NT Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, July 25, Keelie Gustin from Preble County Community Action Partnership (CAP) and Bob Turley with Group Cares Work Camps provided the board information on a new potential program which will bring church groups from across the country to New Paris to improve homes.
According to Superintendent Jeff Parker, Gustin approached him in April with this opportunity to work with Group Cares. They have been in discussion ever since with different National Trail staff members.
“The plan is, as long as the board is fine with it, in August we will put it on for you to approve for them to use our facilities next July,” Parker told the board. “It’s a long process of planning.”
“Mr. Turley approached our CEO at a National Conference for Community Action Partnerships last year. They recommended I connect with him when I came into this position, so we’ve been in contact since then,” Gustin said. “Butler County’s CAP, which serves the same function of self sufficiency as ours in Preble, does this camp. This kind of camp really appeals to us, because as Turley is going to say in a few seconds, what Group does is they come in and bring students from all over the United States with their youth groups.
“They make their way here and they stay in the schools for the period that they’re here,” she added. “Butler County does a week-long camp, but I thought I would give us just a taste, since you all were so kind to potentially consider us to potentially use this facility, for a weekend camp to do some home repairs.”
Turley added, Group Cares is a nonprofit volunteer service home repair agency. They are headquartered in Colorado, but their volunteers come from across the country. They have been partnering with community groups, like CAP, since 1977. What they do is called volunteer service work camps.
They aim to have 400 high school-aged students, and adults participating each year. Each group which comes is required to have one adult for each five kids who come, on a per gender basis. So, if there are both girls and boys volunteering, the group must bring a female and male chaperone.
The volunteers are all members of church youth groups, of all denominations. Turley added, “We don’t exclude anybody and we don’t come to preach or evangelize. We simply come to work on homes. We do home repairs for elderly, low income, or disabled folks.”
The camp that Group Cares is considering bringing to National Trail is a weekend camp, instead of a week-long camp. The students would arrive to the school on Friday afternoon and stay until Monday afternoon.
“A very good place to house a project like this is a local school,” Turley said. “We’re quite happy to sleep on classroom floors, we shower in the locker rooms, have programs in the gym, and we have our breakfast and our evening meal in the cafeteria. What we want to do is reimburse the school district for the cost of housing us — utilities, supplies, salaries, benefit packages for the cooks, all that sort of things.”
He added, they are currently doing 32 of these camps across the United States.
“National Trail has such an amazing reputation in the community,” Gustin said. “The community you have here is what really interested me in presenting this opportunity to you. We don’t want to take people too far away from where they’re staying. We don’t want to travel too far to a work site. That being said, since CAP is going to be co-sponsoring this and matching funds for the building materials, we’ll also be responsible for evaluating the homes and taking into account what materials might be needed and what repairs might be needed.
“We’re looking at doing wheel chair ramps, indoor painting, outdoor painting, stuff like that,” she said. “Because we’re doing matching funds, part of those fund will come from the client base that I serve. This also goes to your Success Program that you have here about eliminating those barriers to learning.
“We’re also going to do additional fundraising to try to expand to additional people in the area that may not fall in that income gap. Seniors and disabled will be on that list as well.”
Turley added, it will be a three-way partnership between CAP, Group Cares, and National Trail.
The National Trail Board of Education will vote on this proposal during its August meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 6:30 p.m. in the NTLS District Office.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH