For the first time since 2018, the Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership (CAPLP) will be inviting young people from around the country to come to Minnesota to participate in the Group Workcamp Home Repair project.
CAPLP has been running the Group Workcamp Home Repair project every other year since 2003. They run the project on alternating years with their sister agency, West Central Minnesota Communities Action, which serves south, west and central Minnesota out of Elbow Lake. Each agency chooses a different location within their area, most recently Breckenridge and Alexandria. This year’s program will be hosted in Moorhead. The Alexandria 2020 workshop was pushed back to 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which then pushed the Moorhead session back to 2022.
They are now eagerly looking forward to the summer construction season when, with the help of about 100 young people, they will perform a number of home repair projects on an estimated 20-25 homes. “It’s such a great program,” says Robin Christianson, the Senior Programs Coordinator at CAPLP. ”The goal is to help older adults, veterans, and persons with disabilities remain in their homes. Some of the repairs may be out of reach for them. Painting your home isn’t always something people have in their budget. It’s pretty expensive, and many people may not be able to physically do it on their own. The same with other home projects, like a wheelchair ramp.”
To select participants in the project, CAPLP solicits applications from those they work with directly and through their partner organizations, but they also advertise directly with the community through a variety of methods. They reach out to local Head Start programs, food pantries and put advertisements in various church bulletins.
“We want to ensure that people in rural Clay county are involved and aware of the program. So we’ve reached out to Hawley, Barnesville, Glyndon, Felton… this isn’t just a big city project,” Robin states.
Home repair projects eligible for the program are geared toward what a supervised youth crew can do in a five-day working period. This can include both interior and exterior painting, repair or replacing steps and small porches, removing crumbling concrete and bricks, installing wheelchair ramps, and help with weatherization projects like insulation, weather stripping, or caulking around windows.
In addition to partnering with Group Mission Trips to advertise and solicit young volunteer groups, CAPLP is also partnering with Moorhead Public Schools this year, with Horizon Middle School to host the volunteers for the week.
“Kids will eat, sleep and shower at the school,” Robin explains. “They set up cots and mattresses in classrooms, eat in the cafeteria and use the gym for programing. Foodservice staff, maintenance engineers, and custodial staff work for the week to help accommodate the individuals while they are participating in the camp, and the organization putting on the camp reimburses the school.”
Youth volunteers will arrive on a Sunday in June and stay for five full days. They are broken into groups of four or five workers, each with various experience levels. However, each team of workers is matched with an experienced supervisor to help explain and teach. The teams work from 8am to 3pm each day, except Wednesday when they get the afternoon off to explore the Moorhead area.
With the increase in prices for many construction supplies, home repairs can be even further out of budget than before, making the recommence of the camp timelier than ever. On average, the estimated cost to repair each home is between $800 and $1000. CAPLP seeks out various funders to help pay for the supplies needed for the camp. One funder this year is the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation, which awarded CAPLP’s Group Workcamp Home Repair project a $1000 gift, naming them as their February 2022 grantee. Funds will go toward materials for the camp, such as paint, lumber, railing, skirting, and basics like screws and nails.
“Hearing the impact with homeowners at the end of the program is my favorite part,” admits Robin. “Their eyes just light up. They’ve formed relationships with the kids at their house for the week and they are so grateful for the help they’ve received. It’s literally building community.”