Youth Build Hope in Area
(Special Events, Youth, "Workcamp") Elizabeth Casteel, 15, paints a shed for a Petersburg resident as part of a youth project to assist rebuilding homes last week. Casteel and a dozen youth from the 490 Unlimited Fort Lee Memorial Chapel group helped rebuild homes July 9 - 13 in Petersburg. Photo by Jorge Gomez.


Claire Born, 19, completed her sixth year last week volunteering to put up sheetrock, repair porches and steps, and replace or paint anything within her capacity for someone who can’t afford to do it.

“I do this to see the smiles on the faces of the residents, that they’re happy to see the work we’ve done,” Born said. “And it’s a chance to meet people in my own backyard that I wouldn’t otherwise meet.”

Born, and a dozen other members from the 490 Unlimited protestant youth group at Fort Lee, joined crews of volunteer youth that traveled from as far as Pennsylvania and Florida to participate in Workcamp 2007. The weeklong project assigns youth to pre-selected houses for repair in Petersburg.

“You learn how to make the repairs before coming to the site,” Born said. “At first I was horrible at putting up sheetrock, but I’ve gotten better.”

It’s not the labor of repairs that is hard, it’s working in the heat and humidity, she said.

Elizabeth Casteel, 15, said she keeps fans running or works in the shade to beat the heat.

“Sometimes it gets messy, but it’s fun,” Casteel said.

It’s Casteel’s first year participating in the project with 490 Unlimited. She said she’s met a lot of new people but especially likes that she’s helping someone in need.

Casteel got to paint a shed and kitchen, retexture ceilings, and replace panels in the living room with crewmembers from Norfolk, Newport News, Richard Bland and North Carolina.

“It’s a good experience, and the resident is also nice,” she said.

Mary S. Peterson, Petersburg resident for 33 years, said the youth prove to be hard workers.

“I’ve had spells of sickness that keep me from doing the (repair) work, and I can’t afford to fix the house,” she said. “I thank God (the youth) are here. It’s encouraging to see kids volunteer their time.”

Workcamp 2007 is sponsored by Tri-Cities Workcamps, Inc., a non-profit corporation. The interdenominational organization was established to provide a Christian learning experience to teens and their leaders. For details, visit

The 490 Unlimited youth group is a fellowship outreach to the Fort Lee and Tri-City communities. During the school year they meet every Sunday, 4 – 6 p.m. at Memorial Chapel, sixth through 12th grade. Groups are divided into junior and high school students.

Fellowship meetings include music, games, socializing, Bible study, cookies and Kool-aid. During the summer, 490 Unlimited suspends meetings due to traveling and vacation but they still commit to service and fun, said Lydia Harding, Memorial Chapel religious education coordinator.

For more information on 490 Unlimited, call (804) 734-6494.