OSAGE COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA - For six days over spring break, teens and chaperones from Cranford and Kenilworth went on the annual Appalachian Mission Trip, affectionately known as “Appy,” to volunteer at the local community center, The Shack.

The group was comprised of 52 teens and nine chaperones from Saints Michael & Theresa Youth Ministry (STMTYM), as well as 14 teens and two chaperones from the Archdioceses of Knoxville in Tennessee. The students raised more than $20,000 over the past few months to fund the seven projects that were worked on.

"For the past 16 years, teens from our youth ministry program have traveled to the Osage, WV area, awakening the need and response of our young people toward service to others,” Rich Donovan, STMTYM director, said.

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During the course of the week, the students were split into six groups and rotated between different sites around the community where they landscaped yards, built decks and wheelchair ramps from scratch, repaired doors and electrical work, ripped up and replaced molded flooring and dug 50-foot-long trenches for pipework.

“I love 'Appy' because of the countless friendships I’ve made out it it, and because of how I’ve grown to be a more well-rounded and accepting person,” junior Tim Eimer, who went on the trip for the first time, said.

Each site faced unique problems, and each was given a budget of a few thousand dollars to address these issues. The funds were raised through a pancake breakfast, pasta nights, church collections and palm cross sales that were all run and staffed by the teens.

“The sites, the work, the people- it all really put my life into perspective and made me appreciate what I have in my life,” junior Lily Collyer said. “But, even when my group spent countless hours digging and planting, it was still one of the best experiences of my life.”

Despite the often freezing temperatures and snowy conditions, the teens worked from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day with only a 15-minute break for a simple sandwich lunch.

"The Appalachian Mission Trip is one of my favorite things our youth ministry program does because of not only the difference the teens make in a short week, but the bonds the teens develop and support of the parish community that develops from it,” Donovan said.

For many teens, the trip is an annual tradition.

“This year was my fourth and, sadly, my final year going on 'Appy,'” senior Maggie Sheridan said. “Every year has been a unique experience that taught me new things each year, and I am going to miss this trip and all the people on it next year.”

STMTYM will return to the same region next year during Cranford High School’s spring break week to tackle new projects and challenges.

Kat Ruane is a high school student participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Cranford.