This past summer, 350 high school students, affiliated with various Catholic Church youth groups from across the nation, traveled to Memphis for six days and spent 8,280 cumulative hours at 55 different locations volunteering their time to serve those in need.
Students have made similar pilgrimages to the Mid-South for the past 13 years as a result of Catholic Heart Workcamp, a national Catholic service camp organization which provides teens with service opportunities to restore homes, feed the hungry, lift children’s spirits and bring joy to the elderly and disabled.
“This is a Catholic mission trip for the students,” said Rene Platten, Memphis camp manager for Catholic Heart Workcamp. “We’ve discovered that teens are ‘all in’ with volunteering when they travel to a new city. Taking them out of their comfort zone opens them up to a new perspective.”
Rene and her husband, Bill, have served as camp co-managers for the Memphis area for the past 13 years. They arrange housing for the student volunteer teams and staff. Additionally, they spend six months coordinating with various social agencies to identify work sites in area.
Students pay a small registration fee to attend the camp and travel via bus or van with Catholic youth groups to St. Benedict at Auburndale High School. They eat, sleep, attend mass and participate in a morning and evening program with music every day at the school. Each day students are sent out into the Memphis community to perform service work.
This past summer, teens painted houses and performed yard work for low-income senior citizens and built wheel chair ramps. Campers worked with the Missionaries of Charity children’s summer camp, Catholic Charities, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis summer camp, Habitat for Humanity and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church and School.
Various high school Catholic youth groups from the Memphis area attend Catholic Heart Workcamp in other U.S. cities. In past years, teens from St. Louis Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church and The Church of the Holy Spirit have participated.
The Plattens’ passion for Catholic Heart Workcamp began many years ago.
"We chaperoned a trip with our children years ago, and saw the positive impact it made on them," Rene said. “We’ve seen how teens can make a difference in the lives of others while encountering Christ in a new way and wanted to ensure that other teens had the same opportunity.”
This year will be the Plattens’ last as camp managers, although they will continue to stay involved in the organization. Hannah Hill, associate director of youth ministry at St. Louis Catholic Church, will serve as the new camp manager for Memphis starting next year.
Please contact Rene Platten, camp manager, at email@example.com regarding donations or questions about Catholic Heart Workcamp. Registration for the summer of 2019 begins September 12 at www.heartworkcamp.com.