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Mission trip provides needed Dexter home repairs

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DEXTER — Four hundred volunteers from around the country spent nearly a week in Dexter from July 22-26 working to fix 60 homes at no cost for residents who otherwise could not afford to have the needed repairs taken care of. The improvements were made through the Fort Collins, Colorado-based Group Workcamps Foundation’s Group Mission Trips organization, a non-profit, interdenominational Christian volunteer home-repair group.

“It’s been busy but good, a lot is getting done,” said First Baptist Church of Dexter Lead Pastor Andrew Bermudez on Wednesday morning as traveled between various sites around town, including the Ridge View Community School where the workcamp volunteers stayed. The First Baptist Church of Dexter and the town sponsored the event, with assistance from a number of business and organization sponsors, after multiple years of planning.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
HOME IMPROVEMENT — Grace Crawford, on the step ladder, of upstate New York and Devin Parris of Maryland paint the garage of a Spring Street home in Dexter as part of a Group Workcamps Foundation’s Group Mission Trip. Four hundred volunteers from around the country spent nearly a week in Dexter from July 22-26 working to fix up 60 homes at no cost for eligible residents who otherwise could not afford to have the needed repairs taken care of.

“Some projects are done, others are on the timeline and a few are behind schedule but that’s no fault of the workers,” Bermudez said, explaining some porch and ramp repairs turned out to be bigger jobs than anticipated. Residents applied for the workcamp earlier this year and site plan reviews helped determine the final list for late July.

“The promise we made to all residents is every project we start we will finish,” he said. Bermudez, who has taken part in a Group Mission Trip in New Jersey, said if need be volunteers from the area will return to the sites to finish the job after others have gone home.

Bermudez said 401 volunteers from 13 states “are working on 60 projects right now.” He said the number of home repairs being carried out is based on the number of program participants. Volunteers all pay an approximate $460 registration fee to cover the cost of food, insurance and building materials.

Group Mission Trips funds about half of the $40,000-plus materials costs with the other half coming from local benefactors. Building materials are purchased from local stores.

All those taking part in the workcamp undergo program training. Many are college students and members of high school or junior high school church youth groups, and they work with older adults in groups of six at individual sites.

“There are 64 crews, two projects have double crews,” Bermudez said.

A Spring Street home had a half dozen workcamp volunteers fixing up the exterior when Bermudez stopped by.

“It’s been going great, we’ve been doing a really good job and we’ve been getting a lot done,” said Devin Parris of Maryland who made her first trip to Maine for the mission trip. “So far we have taken off the shutters and done a lot of scraping along the front of the house and the top of the house and some of the barn. We’ve painted the front of it and the rails, we painted the top and the side. We powerwashed the shutters and we’ve cut the tree. — a lot of work in the past two to three days.”

“Since I live near Washington, D.C. it’s mostly buildings and you can’t see the stars at night, so it’s definitely beautiful here daytime and night,” Parris said.

“I came on this trip because I love to help others and I love that this trip is God-focused,” she said. “I love that we get to do a lot of devotions in the morning, at lunch and in the evening and having God being at the center of our day. I love being a blessing to others and being blessed at the same time by being here.”

Grace Crawford of Lake Placid, New York said fixes on the Spring Street home have involved “a lot of painting, a lot of scraping and sort of touching everything up, and the nights here I spend with my youth group hanging out.”

She said she has been to the state’s coast before on a family trip, but “I’ve never been in this part of Maine.”

“I have been on two mission trips before and I love coming here and meeting new people,” Crawford said. She said her previous experiences were at Navajo Mountain in Utah and Cedar Grove, West Virginia.

“I love helping people, it’s such a great thing to see,” she said. “I also love hanging out with my youth group and friends and making new friends. It’s just a great experience.”

David Burgess of Maryland said at the Spring Street home, “I’ve been working up high on a ladder doing some trim work, doing these shingles.

“We’ve got a big project for a great resident, a whole lot of stuff to do and it’s been great to see all the people from Dexter coming by, honking and saying how glad they are to see people here. It’s been beautiful to see how much we have been welcomed.”

Burgess, who has visited Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park on a vacation, said, “I think it’s really important to remember that Maine it’s not just a land of beautiful country and trees and Vacationland as I see on your license plates. It’s a place of people, proud people, strong people. Some people need help and some are more than ready to get their help.

“Something I hear often is ‘why are you going to these far off places when you’re right near two cities?’ and so many people need some sort of help and some sort of charity and I think it’s important to remember these places hundreds of miles from your home, they still have these real people you just can’t toss off to the side in your mind. That’s something I have always wondered, why I am going off to these places you don’t traditionally think of in need when there’s need near you. There’s need everywhere and it’s important to recognize that.”

“This is my seventh trip like this,” Burgess said. He said his previous workcamps included several in Pennsylvania as well as in West Virginia and Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

The volunteers spent much of their time in Dexter with four full work days but they had Wednesday afternoon off to enjoy Lake Wassookeag. “A lot people have lent their kayaks to use today, there’s been a phenomenal response from the town,” Bermudez said, as members of the Dexter Sunrise Kiwanis prepared lunch at the beach.

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