Welcome help: D.C. students lend a hand in Emmitsburg

Nick DeMarco, 16, a student at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, helps paint the Emmitsburg Food Bank on Thursday morning.

EMMITSBURG — About 28 high school students from Washington enjoyed being away from the big city for a week, helping with projects to assist this northern Frederick County town.

The Gonzaga College High School students ended their stint of community service by painting a building on Main Street that houses the Emmitsburg Food Bank and the Pregnancy Center — a charity that provides children’s clothing, diapers, strollers and beds to people with young children.

The community service project has been a collaboration with the Daughters of Charity at the Seton Center for 14 years. Two groups of students spent the past two weeks completing various projects in Emmitsburg.

“They tell us what needs to be done, what family needs help, and we do it,” said Sister Carroll Kemp, a Gonzaga College High School teacher.

The projects include turning a mattress for an elderly woman or changing light bulbs as well as a two-day job cleaning and leveling a pond at the Sisters of Charity Provincial House, and planting grass and trees.

The students also completed a fence project at the Seton Center and worked with the grounds department at St. Joseph’s House on Seton Avenue.

“Tree planting was quite an adventure for kids who live in the city,” Kemp said.

Painting the food bank, which is part of the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, saved the agency some money, manager Phyllis Kelly said.

“They’re wonderful, and they do a good job for high school kids,” Kelly said. “They’re so willing to do things for the community.”

Cole McCarthy, 17, said he had a good time.

“It was very different. We don’t get to do service work a lot,” Cole said. “You learn new things every day, and you meet a lot of cool people.”

“It’s fun,” said John Veillette, 15. “There’s just no downside to it. We learn what religion is in the classroom, and why out here.”

The Emmitsburg community welcomed them like family, Kemp said.

“People were waving to us, speaking to us. You don’t get that in D.C.,” Kemp said. “They don’t even look at us” in D.C.

The community service projects also give the young men a chance to build a sense of community they do not experience among 950 students at the Jesuit school, Kemp said.

At the end of each day, the students reflect on their activities.

“In the evening, we sit together to talk about the tasks, what we learned and we pray,” Jesuit teacher Richard Nichols said. “Prayer and reflection is part of what we do.

“We’re motivated by Christian principles — love of neighbor, caring for neighbor. These guys have been inspired either by their religion class or home lives. They are here as volunteers. This is no credit requirement.”

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