HAZLET – Teenage “angels” who came to participate in the home repair mission Jersey Shore Workcamp helped spruce up the outside of one Hazlet resident’s nautical themed mobile home.
“God bless them, I couldn’t haven’t done this,” homeowner Nancy Yukubik said in an interview at her residence on July 9.
From July 8-12, Jersey Shore Workcamp, which falls under its parent organization, Group Workcamp, enlisted hundreds of high school age volunteers from throughout the United States and Canada to improve and repair homes in Monmouth County’s Bayshore region.
Residents who are financially or physically unable to make necessary repairs and renovations to their home may apply for the free program annually. The teenagers who complete the repairs are from church youth groups and stay in a Hazlet school for the week they are here.
Yukubik, who said she became disabled in a toboggan crash in 2000, said the teenagers, who she referred to as “angels,” planted flowers, removed weeds, planted mulch and made outdoor repairs to her home. Yukubik said those were tasks she could not physically perform.
This year marked the second time teenagers from the work camp visited her home.
Once again, Yukubik said, she was in awe of the immediate companionship and strong worth ethic the young adults – who were strangers when they arrived in New Jersey – showed while they made repairs to her mobile home.
The faith-based strangers who are now friends were Nick Smith, 15, of Ohio, Elizabeth Gruen, 14, of Ohio, Marquell Shives, 16, of Maryland, Caroline Buck, 18, of Massachusetts, and Corina Matrone, 18, of Rhode Island.
“The (kids) are fabulous,” Yukubik said. “… I’m disabled and I’ve had many surgeries and I can’t do the work myself … If it weren’t for (the student volunteers) the work wouldn’t get done. They are my angels because they are doing what needs to be done … It is a pleasure every year to meet new people who are not messed up in the system – meaning on drugs. These are nice Catholic kids … (Their service) is very much appreciated.”
Caroline, who was participating in her fourth work camp, said, “It is a really fun week because you come to a completely new place you have never been to and you meet people from all over the place. You get to hear different stories throughout the week and you become really close with your (assigned) work groups.”
Nick, who was participating in work camp for the first time, said, “(This group) has the best resident (homeowner) and it is the best group. That is part of what makes (the experience) so special. We were definitely put here by God.”
The teenagers said they remained steadfast in their faith, studying scripture and praying daily during their time in the Garden State.
The teens adhered to a “relentless” work camp theme during which they meditated about what they described as the relentless love of God.
Although the program centers on religion, Caroline said, young adults may participate in the program even if they do not attend church or follow a religion.
Barb Muench of Kansas, who served as the group’s adult crew member, said numerous denominations are represented at work camp.
“Kids (who participate) and are not sure what they believe, the primary message they get is that God loves you,” she said.
“We all have the same God, we just worship a little differently,” Nick said.
Yukubik, who called herself a “beach girl” living in Hazlet, has always loved the ocean – and her home decor accentuates her passion for all things reminiscent of the sea. A portion of the outdoor perimeter of her mobile home is even lined with white seashells.
“You know how it is down by the shore, everything is alright, like Bruce Springsteen says … I bought a mobile home and made my own beach,” Yukubik said.
The decor made the teens – some of whom said they had never seen the Atlantic Ocean – excited to visit the Jersey Shore.
Following the interview, the teenagers, who had known each other for just two days at the time, continued painting Yukubik’s deck white when they playfully began painting each other’s faces and taking photographs.
Yukubik joined the teens and let Corine paint a small white dot on her nose – symbolizing the newfound companionship the former strangers had found in one another.
“I can’t tell you how much joy this (program) brings,” Yukubik said.
She pointed to a shed in her yard.
On the front doors of the shed were more than a dozen handprints, each bearing a signature. She said the handprints are from previous Jersey Shore Workcamp volunteers who painted the exterior of her mobile home three years ago.
Yukubik said she was planning to have this year’s teens play with the paint once more at the end of the week – this time to leave their mark on her property and not her nose, but her heart.