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Local church helps those in need in West Virginia

July 8, 2016
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

For the youths who went, especially those who went for the first time, it was quite a culture shock; crumbling trailers that sat on wood foundations, very little in the way of communication.

It was a look at a very rural area of the United States that many of them hadn't envisioned.

Members of Faith Presbyterian Church in Cape Coral went to West Virginia last week for their annual mission to the Cabell-Lincoln County work camp, where people from all over help to fix people's homes and do whatever they need to help make life a little easier.

Article Photos

Members of Faith Presbyterian Church in Cape Coral do some construction work as part of a mission to the Cabell-Lincoln County workcamp in rural West Virginia.

Nancy Exline, director of Christian Education and Youth Ministries for the church, said the trip was started by the church's presbytery more than 20 years ago. The church itself took it over when the presbytery decided not to organize it anymore.

"Our goal is to makes the houses for those who live there, warm, safe and dry. That entails anything from putting on new roofs, building decks and ramps for those who are in wheelchairs," Exline said. "They don't build houses like we do. They usually use wood and, with all the rain, everything rots out."

Cabell and Lincoln counties are rural areas near Huntington, where many people still live in hollers, narrow mountain valleys where people mostly live off the land. They often don't have enough money to fix and maintain their homes.

There are few forms of communication such as cellphones, which creates a problem for those people at high elevation.

"These people who live here, there are flash flood warnings, but these people never got them. It takes nothing for flooding to wash their houses away," Exline said. "People don't realize it unless you go there that there are people who still live like that here. It's sad to see."

The 43 campers, mostly high school students, left the Saturday before Father's Day via bus, arrived Sunday afternoon and went to their dorms. They worked, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., doing whatever they needed to do, Exline said.

Tristan D'Agostino, about to become a senior at Cape Coral High School, went for the third time. He worked on a trailer that was on the verge of caving in.

"We put up a new tin roof, painted it white and built a deck so they can walk out the door," D'Agostino said. "They had a rickety porch and a door suspended four feet from the ground."

The church took up a collection with the congregation during Pentecost Monday. The trip cost $525 per child, which included the camp, food and bus ride. The kids who are active at the church got their way paid through scholarships.

Exline made the trip for the eighth time, and said every year, their work has made a difference.

"When I started going, there were a lot of houses that were worse off than they are now," Exline said. "We are so fortunate and spoiled with a feeling of entitlement that it's humbling for the kids to see how these people live. It's a totally different culture."

D'Agostino said it felt rewarding to finish up on Friday and see all the smiling faces of those he had helped.

"He got to walk out that door for the first time in a long time. To see his face was amazing," D'Agostino said. "We get to meet so many cool people from all over and make new friends. That's why I keep coming back."



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