Baltimore County Christian Workcamp volunteers, left to right,… (Photo by Steve Ruark )
St. John's United Methodist Church in Lutherville boasts just 40 parishioners, but its members are proud of the large impact they can make with their volunteer efforts.
The most recent, the Baltimore County Christian Workcamp, provided a team of parish volunteers that has traveled the county and country doing service work in the past with the unique opportunity to give back close to home.
"It doesn't matter where you are," said Carol Anders of Lutherville as she stood in front of this year's work site, on Stanmore Road in Towson. "Most of the people are just incredibly wonderful."
Anders, 65, is in her fifth year participating in the week-long workcamp, in which hundreds of volunteers from congregations across the county donate their time and efforts to local families in need of their assistance.
The Baltimore County Christian Workcamp was founded in 1984, and operates as an ecumenical program with Baptists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, United Methodists, and other faiths involved.
According to organizers, each year more than 60 houses are repaired during the week, which for 2012 ran from July 15-20.
Each day during the camp starts with breakfast at the host church, Hunt's Memorial United Methodist, in Riderwood, where bagged lunches are also prepared for workers who want them. Volunteers of all ages and with varying skills then go off to their job sites to work on plumbing, electrical, carpentry, ceilings, walls, roofs or whatever is needed.
This year, Anders and the team from St. John's — which included her husband, Andy, as well as Lou Flater, Don Plennenberg and Amanda and Hannah Shultz — were working at the home of Nicolas and Irene Dimitrades, a pair of longtime Towson residents who owned Town'n Country Coffee Shop on South Street in downtown Baltimore for 35 years.
They bought their house 43 years ago, all the while building relationships with their neighbors — who Irene Dimitrades said are wonderful — as well as building a loyal customer base at the coffee shop.
But as Nicolas' health declined, they sold the restaurant. A recent stroke left him partially paralyzed, and the group from St. John's is undertaking a series of minor improvements on the couple's town house.
On the front lawn Tuesday morning, paint dried on a bedroom door. Anders said the door had been missing a large chunk near the knob when they arrived.
The team also fixed a door jam at the rear of the house, and a portion of an upstairs bedroom where the ceiling had fallen in. With those tasks accomplished, all that was left to do was sand and paint the ceiling upstairs, and then reinstall the bedroom door.
Outside on the front walkway, the group patched up a pair of crumbling steps that led to the entry door, and Flater and Plennenberg were in the process of drilling into a concrete slab to complete the installation of a new railing on the front steps.
On July 18 at the Towson site, Carolyn Fischer, a member of the church's sister parish, Idlewylde United Methodist, visited to snap some photos and provide a snack, while workers continued the tasks at hand.
"People come and go," Anders said.
Though the St. John's group consists of short-timers relative to the rest of the 29-year-old program, St. John's and Idlewylde have made a habit of showing off their selflessness throughout the years.
A group from the churches makes annual trips to Kentucky, where one year, Anders said a trailer with a laundry list of problems was fixed in just four days. Earlier this year, they also took part in a donation drive entitled "Don't come to church without your underwear," which collected more than 300 pairs of new underwear for a local charity.
They also hold regular food drives for the Assistance Center for Towson Churches.
"Every little bit helps," Fischer said. "You show people you're Christian by your love."