Pictured are campers posing in front of an outdoor mural they painted at the Family Success Center of Straight and Narrow.

More than 300 teens serve at Catholic HEART Workcamp

A new mural brightens up a wall in the parking lot of the Family Success Center, part of Straight and Narrow, Catholic Charities’ substance-abuse recovery program in Paterson. It features fun, eye-catching images, such as a painted llama, tree, and giraffe for the children who are served by the center. The mural also bears a special signature: “CHWC 2023.”

Those initials stand for Catholic HEART Workcamp. For a week in July, 100 Catholic teens and adults from New Jersey and beyond descended on the Paterson Diocese to use their hands and hearts in service to the poor in Sussex County and beyond as part of CHWC. During a later week, another more than 200 volunteers came to the diocese to brighten the lives of those in need, mostly in Passaic and Paterson, as well as other areas of northern New Jersey.

Among the CHWC work crews that week were eight teens and two adults who served the Family Success Center, which helps families in need. The team also cleaned the center and gardened, sorted donations of clothing and diapers, and assisted with the early learning program at the facility’s La Vida School program.

“The crew made the center beautiful. They were friendly and prayerful,” said Bernice Lopez, the center’s director. She told volunteers, “You gave us a helping hand when we needed it most. You set a remarkable example for others.”

The volunteers served various work­sites, including the three agencies of Catholic Charities of the Paterson Diocese. They are Catholic Family and Community Services (CFCS), Straight and Narrow, and the Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD).

Volunteers in and around Sussex County stayed at Sacred Heart Retreat Center and Camp Auxilium in Newton, run by the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco. Campers helping out in Paterson and Passaic were housed at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, also run by the Salesian Sisters. Volunteers came from New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

In the morning, staff and volunteers started the day with Mass. At night, they lifted their hearts in worship and praise, followed by games and fellowship.

At the Father English Community Center in Paterson, teens unloaded truckloads of food, sorted and packed hundreds of bags of food to distribute to its clients, and helped beautify the facility. Campers spruced up at an early learning program, Friendship Corner 2, also in Paterson, where they also interacted with the children.

Teens at the Senior Adult Day Program in Paterson made pancakes for the seniors and hosted an ice-cream social and exercise time to music. In turn, the seniors taught them to crochet. Campers at the Partnership for Social Services Program in Franklin spruced up and organized the facility.

“We were blessed to have welcomed these young people. They have the spirit of our Gospel mission,” said Sister of Charity Maureen Sullivan, CFCS’ director of volunteers.

CHWC started in 1993 in Orlando and has grown to include camps across the country and several international camps. During the summer, a few parishes in the diocese send groups to volunteer at other CHWC sites.

At DPD, campers beautified the grounds of five group homes and uplifted people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Lori Flynn, DPD’s pastoral-care director, said, “It’s refreshing to know that there are such wonderful young people of the world today giving of their time and talent for those in need. These students are passionate, reverent, and respectful. They are the salt of the Earth.”

Photo caption: Pictured are campers posing in front of an outdoor mural they painted at the Family Success Center of Straight and Narrow.

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