by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
POCAHONTAS, Va. —
Diane Hammett didn’t have a clue as to how she was going to come up with a bucket truck in order to paint the frame of the stain glass window of the Bobby Shew Community Center in Pocahontas, Va.
The community center had been home to the African American Community Methodist Church for years. Hammett of Mansfield, Ohio, is the site coach for several regional Group Workcamps, but on Tuesday night during a service on the Bluefield College campus, she said that she planned to make finding a bucket truck and painting the front window frame her “project for the site,” according to 18-year-old Justin Hunter who directed traffic on Water Street in Pocahontas during an extended downpour of rain.
“She’s in charge of seven or eight sites,” Hunter said as he vigilantly watched traffic and steered them clear of the Bluefield, Va., bucket truck that held Hammett and Wade Dillon of the town of Bluefield, Va. Dillon had brought the bucket truck to the site Wednesday morning, and remained in the bucket with Hammett as she fulfilled her personal pledge to the project.
“I’m only the vessel,” Hammett said from the bucket as rain continued falling. “I was just open to the opportunity of finding a bucket truck.” She said that she called several businesses in search of the equipment with no success, but as she was leaving the service, Mine Watson, Bluefield, Va., town manager introduced himself to her and offered the group the opportunity to visit Harmony Acres Swimming Pool for an evening.
“When he said who he was, I said: ‘You’re my bucket truck,” Hammett said. She was right.
Group mission trips have been traveling to communities since 1977 with groups made up of as many as 450 teenagers who are willing to spend a week of work and worship. The Tazewell County, Va., Workcamps includes 387 youth as well as several adult group leaders and staff persons. The participants are from Washington state, Texas, Wisconsin, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, and more, according to Mark Albert, Mission Group Workcamps director.
“It’s a pretty worldly group,” he said.
“This has been a pretty unique experience,” Justin Hunter said. Hunter is from Gibson City, Ill. “I’ve never been to a camp where we worked on churches, parks and a cemetery. I love it more.”
In addition to the work at the community center, Workcamps teams painted the wood on several buildings owned by the town, spruced up Laurel Park, painted the entrance gate and did a tremendous amount of work cutting the grass, clearing branches and doing everything they could to clean up the historic Pocahontas Cemetery.
“I wish you could have seen them earlier today,” Leslie Bohle of Plevna, Mont., said as she showed a photo on her iPhone with a group of 4 young people all pushing lawn mowers up a hill at the same time. “They have been working so hard, but when they turn around to see what they did, it doesn’t seem like they’ve accomplished anything.”
“We have 14-year-olds out here working as hard as they can work,” Kori Kary, of Baker, Mont., said. “We have had a lot of boys who picked up stones and tried to re-set them, but when Tom Childress saw them, he pointed out they were not in the right place. Mr. Childress has been helpful in explaining the history of the cemetery to the kids. They have all really been interested in doing this project.”
Just before the noon-break on a half-day mission trip commitment on Wednesday, several Workcamps participants posed for a photograph at the entrance to the cemetery.
“This is a beautiful cemetery,” A.J. Carpenter, 17, of North Carolina, said.
“When I first looked at what we had to do, I didn’t think we would be able to do this,” Breanna Miller, 14, of Montana said. “But we did!”
“It’s great to see all the people out here working together,” Taiken Goerndt, 13, also of Montana said. “We have people from all over the United States here working together.”
“I think this is a great opportunity to come out here and to accomplish all of this work that needs to be done,” Kadon Gentilini, 13, also of Montana said.
Group Workcamps volunteers are working on 60 individual projects in the Bluefield-Pocahontas area, according to Chris Shoemaker, public relations director of Bluefield College. The youth missionaries have been staying on the BC campus since Sunday. The mission trip continues until Friday evening.