Area teens' project helps change lives and their views

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    SUSSEX COUNTY-Some went eagerly, some willingly, and some not so enthusiastically, at least not initially, but they all returned changed people for their experience. Area teenagers gathered recently in St. Michael Church, Netcong, to celebrate their return from a week in Millersville, MD, where they were one of 68 crews of workers numbering 400 individuals out to repair 51 houses for less fortunate families. The 22 volunteers were chaperoned by Russell and Cindy Redmond, Yvette Sica, and Pete Totter, and represent many neighboring communities: Stanhope: Quentin Sica, Leah Moylen, Andy Frenenski, Ksenia Rogalo, and adult leader Yvette Sica; Byram: Danielle Sangilla, and adult leaders, Cindy and Russ Redmond; Netcong: Casey Keller, Brian Ninni, Lesli Loschiavo, Katarina Tablado, Jason Grube, Mark Fersch; Hopatcong: Jospeh Capitumino; Roxbury: Cara Hurley, Chris Totter, adult leader, Pete Totter; Flanders: Philip Dugonjic; Budd Lake: Megan Peason, and Long Valley: Sara and Adam Monsalve. Many of the teens are involved in community and school activities, and in church-related projects. Several are peer ministers, where they counsel their fellow teens in need of help, and their reasons for attending the camp vary. "I just wanted to go to help people. We worked for one family and helped finish work of other groups. I liked painting and talking to the residents," said seventeen-year-old Katarina Tablado of Netcong, a senior at Lenape Valley Regional High School, who said she considers herself lucky after recalling the hardships endured by some of the people she met. "My sister did it and it seemed like a good idea to help other people," said Adam Monsalve, 17, of Long Valley, who acknowledged to being a little hesitant initially. However, he said, his skepticism and views changed. "It was a great experience. Seeing the look on the people's faces was awesome." Joseph Capitummino, 17, of Hopatacong agreed. "I learned so much, but the one thing I will always remember is each of us watching the resident when she first saw her house. It brought a tear to my eye," he said. The project was carried out under the auspices of the Group Workcamps Foundation (, a non-profit organization that had its beginnings as a result of the 1977 flood of the Big Thompson River in Colorado that left houses destroyed, roads washed away and more than 140 people killed. In response, church youth groups were asked to come to the area and rebuild homes. Some 300 youths responded to the call. Since that time, more than 210,000 students and adult leaders have volunteered 6 million volunteer hours on mission trips in the United States and abroad. "I went partly willingly. I had no expectations, but around the middle of the week, I realized how although I thought it would be dumb, it was actually cool," said Phil Dugonjic, 15, of Roxbury. "I'm 100 percent sure I'm going back."