Throughout the years, in collaboration with local grassroots organizations, the PV Volunteers have accomplished great things through their service. Here are several of the highlights.
By invitation of a Passionist priest in the neighborhood, the PVs began a summer camp for the children in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. The children growing up in this largely Hispanic neighborhood were in need of some activities during the summer, thus PEACE Camp began in the summer of 1998. The camp provides a two week summer camp experience in August for young people, ages 5-13, who normally would not have the opportunity to participate in a structured camp experience. Through the camp, a homework program developed, as well as a young womens empowerment group.
The spring of 2000 saw a small group of PVs go to North Carolina to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. The group worked in collaboration with a Passionist Parish in the area and helped to rebuild a porch, as well as clean out an elderly lady’s house so she could stay. And again in the fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy left its mark on the northeast. In March the following year, the PVs got a group together to help with the still much needed clean up efforts. Working along side of the Americorp workers, the PVs helped to clean sand out of several yards, as well as helped to gut a couple of houses that still needed that to be done.
While in Wyoming County, West Virginia in the summer of 2001, the PV Volunteers witnessed a major flood. As a result, the PVs opened up the school that they called home as an emergency shelter. A few days later the Red Cross came in and opened up the school as a distribution point as well as a shelter that the PVs ran. The rest of the summer was spent helping residents to clean out their homes of mud and debris, and later help to rebuild.
After a desire to have a community garden was expressed, a PV with a horticultural background started a community garden in Mullens, WV. The garden is still run by the community and is a valuable and affordable source for vegetables throughout the summer.
In 2002, in response to the water quality problems that have negatively affected communities in Wyoming County, the Upper Guyandotte Watershed Association (UGWA) was founded. Since its beginnings the PVs have worked closely with UGWA by participating in regular stream cleanups and monitoring water quality.
In Wyoming County, WV in 2003, a volunteer started a soccer camp in an area where the sport was not played. With the help and encouragement of the volunteers assistance was provided to parents to begin a soccer league. This league is still operating and kids that grew up in the camp have returned to help run the camps.
Also in 2003, a PV began a basketball camp in Wyoming County. Unlike soccer, basketball is huge in the area with many camps and leagues, but we have found that there is a gap in opportunities for children who might not be able to afford these experiences. A great example was the camp held in the summer of 2013 in Mullens, WV. Monday started with only about 9 players for camp. We were informed the reason for this was probably due to big time Coach Rob Fulford of Huntington Prep was hosting a camp right down the road in Mullens. Everyday we got more players because they heard of the free camp that was sending kids home everyday with more knowledge & skills that went along with having a lot of fun! By the end of the week 29 kids were able to experience an incredible environment of learning, team camaraderie and games.
During the PEACE camp in the summers in Bedford Stuyvesant, we noticed there were a lot of junior high and high schools girls that wanted something more to do during the school year. They had already proven themselves to be leaders by assisting us as junior camp counselors, so in 2003 we decided to start TGIA (Teen Girls in Action), which would later become WEB (Womens Empowerment Brooklyn) a young womens empowerment group for girls in the neighborhood. So much has changed over the years and we could not be more proud as we have watched these young ladies grow. They have all graduated high school or received their GED, several have received their Associate degrees, with others are working toward their degrees, some are still in high school, and a two have become proud and loving mothers. Many in the group have come down to West Virginia to volunteer their time and they all have served as counselors or junior counselors at our PEACE camp in Brooklyn. These young women are looked upon as leaders and mentors to the younger females in their neighborhood.
In Wyoming County in 2005, a volunteer recruited some local help and rebuilt 50 computers from donated FEMA computer parts and worked with a local opportunity center and Early Head Start to put basic word processing software and toddler software on the machines. He then gave classes encouraging mothers to use the machines for themselves as well as with their children as an educational opportunity. Those completing the class were awarded a computer to take home and use for themselves and their children.
During the summer of 2004, the summer volunteers in West Virginia built a handicap accessible bathroom and shower for a volunteer fire fighter who was paralyzed from the waist down. Before this home repair, the 24 year old spent a year not being able to bathe by himself because his wheel chair would not fit down the narrow hallway of his trailer that led to the bathroom. Throughout the years, the PVs have built numerous wheelchair ramps to help residents get in and out of their homes.
A married couple who were trying to adopt their five grandchildren requested help with renovations in the summer of 2009. Their daughter, the children’s mother, was struggling with drug addiction. The state had already removed the children from her home before and was once again preparing to place the children into foster care. Foster care would mean that the children would be split up. The grandparents had a small trailer and the state demanded that changes be made to the trailer before the grandparents could adopt the children. The grandfather had built a makeshift addition onto the trailer to be used as bedrooms, but he lacked the skills to run electricity into the rooms and the money to purchase supplies needed to make the bedrooms safe and secure. The state social worker had presented the family with a list of necessary repairs, which the family could not afford. The PVs were able to assist this family by insulating the house, both the wall and the floors, running electricity into both rooms, putting three outlets in each room, overhead lights, two new windows in each and a door for each room. The PVs gave paint to the grandparents who painted the children’s room. In addition to finishing the bedrooms, the PVs put siding around the addition, underpinned the entire trailer, built new steps with secure railings, and put a new coating of fiber roofing on the trailer roof. Throughout the project the grandparents, along with their son worked along side the PV volunteers. Both rooms were completed, with bright new paint, decorations on the walls, new beds; and the grandparents received the final okay on keeping their grandchildren as a result of the renovations.
In 2010, Wyoming County was once again devastated by flooding, this time on the western end of the county. The volunteers spent the better part of the summer renovating two homes in Hanover that were totally destroyed by the flooding in May and June. This included dry walling, sanding, painting and underpinning. The spring college service trip also worked on one of the homes.
As a way to give back to the school that the PVs stay during the summers in West Virginia, they offer free tutoring to the community. One example of the impact of this service is the story of a boy we will call Randy. Randy was 8 and entering into the 3rd grade. He attended the entire PV summer tutoring session during the summer. During the first two weeks he complained about math and reading, especially reading. Each tutoring week had a particular theme, and with each theme an accompanying writing prompt, consisting of a question to prompt imagination and to focus on the future. During the “College” theme each child was asked to write what he or she wanted to be when they grew up and why. Randy wrote, “I want to be a teacher, to help children read better.” The theme during the last week of the tutoring program was, “Back to School,” each child was asked to write about what they looked forward to achieving during the school year, Randy wrote, “I want to read more chapter books.” Each child that has attended the tutoring program gleaned different gifts and improved on skills they had learned during the school year.
In 2011, the PVs earned a special recognition from the Governor of West Virginia for our work after the 2010 flooding. We were very honored to be singled out.
In the summer of 2013 the PVs took on another extensive home repair project in Wyoming County, WV. A women came to the PVs asking for help on repairs to her house. Her husband was in the hospital and they would not let him come home unless these repairs were done. The PVs replaced a large portion of the roof, rebuilt the porch and added a wheel chair accessible ramp, as well as replacing most of the floor in the house and the front door which was broken when the house was burglarized while the husband was in the hospital. Both the woman of the house and her young grandson worked alongside the volunteers. After the repairs were completed, the husband was able to return home.
Since 1998 the PV Volunteers have lent a hand to help staff the Itmann Food Bank. The food bank provides food to over 400 Wyoming County families. By helping to staff the food bank the volunteers give the year-round Food Bank volunteers a much needed break.
Each Friday in the summer in West Virginia, the PV volunteers visit an assisted living home for mentally and emotionally impaired adults. Volunteers entertain the adults with a cheery and uplifting game of Banana Bingo where the residents are sung to and sing along upon receiving a banana from achieving bingo. For those not wanting to play Bingo, volunteers interact with the residents playing pool, painting nails and/or enjoy one-on-one conversation.
There was interest expressed by volunteers and the PV Board to expand into other areas to provide different types of volunteer experiences. In 2013, we received a donation to cover the costs of having two new week long projects. With local PV support, Seattle, WA and Aurora, IL were chosen for these weeks. Both sites were able to offer different experiences for the volunteers and were warmly received by the local communities. Because of their successes, these site are now considered permanent PV locations.