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REACH Workcamps returns to help out

Arthur Kilgo has been no stranger to change in his 79 years.

He's seen eight children grow up and move out, mourned the infant deaths of two more and learned to live on his own after his wife went to a nursing home in 2001. But through it all, one thing has remained constant: his home. Kilgo has never moved from the Wingate home he had built in 1971.

So when his bedroom ceiling started leaking and the kitchen floor started sinking several months ago, Kilgo was at a loss for what to do.

“One problem was I didn't have the money,” he said. “And anyway, I never was too good at doing carpentry work.”

Although he said he resigned himself to making do, Kilgo continued to pray for help.

This past week, help came from a nondenominational Christian organization called REACH Workcamps.

The Colorado-based group sends church youth into depressed areas to renovate houses. The program targets residents who can't make repairs themselves due to financial or physical limitations, said Annie Dodge, director of marketing.

Union County was chosen as a REACH Workcamps site this year largely because of the need the group saw last time it visited in 2005, said executive director Mike Jones.

“We had to turn so many people away last time we came here that we made a promise to come back,” he said.

From July 20 to Aug. 2, about 650 youth will be in the county serving nearly 70 homes. These youth will spend their days doing stair construction, gutter work and roof work. They'll sleep at Parkwood High School.

Jan Harmon, a chaperone with a group of 32 teens from upstate New York, said many of her youth have described the camp as eye-opening.

“A lot of them never knew there are people who live in a condition like this,” she said.

For Kilgo's house, volunteers installed a railing on the side, painted the living room and did floor repairs.

Spenser Bistor, 19, of Ohio, said working on Kilgo's house has made her thankful.

“I definitely appreciate more things that my family has done for me,” she said. “It was kind of a wake-up call for me.”

She added that she's learned a lot about gratitude from Kilgo.

“He'll talk to us about his family and life and he just seems so grateful for what he has,” she said. “It's really inspiring.”

Ricky Hargett, a Union County liaison for REACH Workcamps, said the program encourages campers to interact with residents.

“There's a lot we can learn from each other,” he said. “It makes it more personal when they get to know who they're helping.”

Standing in the shade while watching several teenagers climb his roof and lay down shingles, Kilgo said their help was a blessing.

“It makes me feel good to know that roof won't be leaking anymore because it was leaking pretty bad for a while,” he said.

But Harmon said the opportunity to serve Kilgo was the real blessing.

“It's just incredible to know that God is working through us to help this man,” she said.