Star Ledger Article on our 2013 Mission Trip to Keansburg NJ (local copy)

Local copy of

Hundreds of volunteers with Jersey Shore Workcamp help repair Bayshore homes

Erin O'Neill/The Star-Ledger By Erin O'Neill/The Star-Ledger
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on July 21, 2013 at 7:30 AM, updated July 21, 2013 at 7:36 AM

Hundreds of young volunteers traveled to New Jersey from across the county this month to spend a week of their summer working on home repairs during the day and sleeping on air mattresses in classrooms at Keansburg High School at night.

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I felt like I needed to come and help,” said Tyler Doran, a 15-year-old from Clarks Grove, Minn., who was working with a team of volunteers who were rebuilding the deck of a Keansburg home damaged during Hurricane Sandy. “I just felt like it was something I needed to do.”

That drive to serve brought 820 youth group members to Monmouth County over the last two weeks to participate in Jersey Shore Workcamp. The camp is a partnership between St. John’s United Methodist Church in Hazlet and Group Mission Trips, a Christian organization based in Loveland, Colo.

“The young people actually pay to come to camp,” said Jodie Ginter, a camp director with Group Mission Trips. “Which is the amazing thing, they actually pay to come work for a week.”

Gail and Bill Bechtoldt brought the Jersey Shore Workcamp to the area in 2005 to help low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners repair their homes. They have held the camp every other year since.

But this year, with residents struggling to find the money to cover repairs from the Oct. 29 megastorm, the need for help has grown. Bill Bechtoldt said since the storm he “just ... continues to get more and more people in need.”

So the Bechtoldts decided to add an additional week to the summer volunteer effort.

Over the two weeks, the volunteers worked on more than 100 homes, Bechtoldt said.

One of those homes belonged to John and Angela Falber in Keansburg.

John Falber, 46, said he and wife have a limited income because he’s unemployed and she is disabled. After Sandy, the couple struggled with their insurance companies and Falber said they received “not even half of what we needed to get all the repairs done.”

Though the flooding didn’t reach inside their main living area, it caused damage underneath the home and in a front porch used as a guest room.

Last week in the sweltering heat, a team of volunteers painted the Falbers' Myrtle Avenue house and replaced insulation in the crawlspace.

Angela Falber, 39, said the volunteers’ efforts were both a “blessing and a necessity.”

“It’s amazing. I’m touched. It’s very moving,” she said.

Late Tuesday morning, Laura Piper, a 17-year-old from Albert Lea, Minn., took a short break from painting the house.

“It’s a lot of hard work but I think it’s definitely worth it to help those who can’t do it for themselves,” she said.

Nick Hladick, an 18-year-old from Montgomery, said he came to this year’s work camp because “we knew that there was a need after Hurricane Sandy so we wanted to make sure that we can help close by.”

Hladick, who was helping install insulation at the Falbers home, said the work was “a blast. I wouldn’t trade this week for anything.”

Nearby, another group of volunteers - from as far away as Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri - helped build a deck on the back of Shane Flanzbaum’s home on Maple Avenue in Keansburg.

Flanzbuam, 35, said “it was a nightmare for a long time” trying to reach a settlement with his insurance company to start repairs on his home.

But even then, insurance won’t cover damage to the deck.

“It’s been a long road,” he said. “But with these kids, with the work camp, they could be doing anything else this summer but to volunteer their time and donate their time to come down and help out. It says something. It says something for them.”