St. Patrick Parish in Chatham has sent Youth Ministry members to Rowlesburg, West Virginia for the 32nd year.

This summertime mission to aid families in need began in 1986 following a flood that devastated the geographic area. It was started by three teenage parishioners and has continued enthusiastically as a highlight of the youth ministry experience.

That initial trip, now named Appalachia Help Week, annually connects Chatham to West Virginia. In the past 32 years, over 750 teenagers and 300 adult St. Patrick Parishioners have participated in this trip that gives of their time and physical labor. This year, 48 teenagers and 27 adults will spend one week in West Virginia. Participants are divided into work teams that span several weeks during the summer. Each team is assigned one family with a house in need of significant structural repair.

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Projects often include replacing a roof, building an access ramp, or reconstructing homes for comfort and safety. In some instances, the work spans weeks and various teams visiting from St. Patrick Parish will hand off the project until completed by end of summer. Father Robert Mitchell, the church pastor, commented, “Our Youth are very active in the parish and in Chatham. This mission is a favorite and cherished volunteer opportunity as the youth find it so enriching to aid and connect with this special Appalachian community in need. It isn’t only about home repairs, but also learning more about yourself and your relationship with God.”

When asked about her experience, Lizzie O’Neill, a junior at Chatham High School and active in St. Patrick Youth Ministry, stated, “It was an incredible learning experience to share with my friends from
St. Patrick’s. This experienced changed my perspective of what is needed to be happy. The people I met
in West Virginia seemed truly happy with what seemed like so little. We were able to improve the
quality of life for one man by helping to expand his home and to bring him running water. I can’t wait to go again next year.”

The trip and all its building supplies are funded by contributions that the teens help raise during the year. Fred Mercadante, the program coordinator, shared that without the generosity of those in Chatham, the trip would not take place. If you would like to contribute to this ongoing outreach, you can send a check to: St. Patrick Youth Ministry Appalachia Help Week, 41 Oliver Street Chatham NJ