WorkCamp New England volunteers will be spending the next week working on the homes of seniors and others in need in Whitman, Hanson, Abington, Weymouth, Brockton, Bridgewater and South Easton.

Anna Howe had always heard about the kindness of strangers, but seeing strangers getting ready to put a new coat of white paint on her house and garage at no cost was all the proof she needed.

“I feel guilty, because nobody ever does anything like this for anybody,” said Howe, 77, watching as the six volunteers from WorkCamp New England chipped away the old paint on her single-family house at 598 Temple St. on Monday.

The group will then apply primer and a base coat so that her house will appear good as new.

The volunteers hail from across the United States and Canada. What binds them is a common desire to help others and learn from the experience.

Hard work is the price they agreed to pay.

“We’ve been scraping paint all day,” said team leader Missy McClure of the Mason City Christian Church in Mason City, Ill. “Our goal is to get the house and the garage thoroughly scraped by the end of the day.”

The volunteers are part of the second wave of WorkCamp New England volunteers who will be spending the next week sprucing up the homes of seniors and others in need in Whitman, Hanson, Abington, Weymouth, Brockton, Bridgewater and South Easton.

“Our whole purpose is to serve,” said Ken Therian, director of WorkCamp New England, a New Hampshire-based non-profit group that started more than 20 years ago at the Manchester Christian Church.

From July 11 until Saturday, more than 300 WorkCamp New England volunteers will be performing non-structural repairs to the homes of 40 seniors at no cost.

The volunteers each paid a tuition fee to take part in the program. The money is put back into the community, Therian said.

Many volunteers are high school students, and many have returned as college students to continue with the program, he said.

For the two weeks the volunteers will be using Whitman-Hanson Regional High School – eating meals in the cafeteria, sleeping in classrooms on air mattresses, and having a nightly program with a message of faith in the auditorium.

Therian said staff members assessed the residents’ needs, then bought the needed tools and materials. Teams of volunteers are assigned to each work site to work with skilled craftsmen.

“None of us are experienced carpenters. This isn’t our day job,” said McClure, a teacher’s aide in the Mason City school system.

McClure and 14 other volunteers recently arrived in Whitman after piling into a van and driving two days and 1,200 miles from Mason City, she said.

At the Howe residence, Anthony Dimech, 17, of Toronto, Canada, was hard at work chipping away at the old white paint on the garage.

“It’s all right,” he said of the work. More importantly, he said, “it’s for a good cause.”

Also working on the garage were Ashton Boyer, 13, of Mount Vernon, Ill., Nicole Rochon, 16, of Litchfield, N.H., Emily Leskowsky, 15, of Sweet Valley, Penn., and Greg Butler, 16, of Washington, Ill.

Anna Howe watched the youths from her kitchen window as her husband, Ken, 86, helped out in the back yard.

“My husband always did all the work. He’s older and he can’t do it anymore, but he tries,” she said.

Common among the senior citizens is feeling guilty that the work is being done for them at no cost, said Marcia Therian of WorkCamp New England.

“We tell them they are repaying us by letting our students into their homes,” she said.

Husband Ken Therian said the whole idea of WorkCamp New England is to build character among the young people and spread community values by example.

“It is a realistic application of what the Bible is trying to teach them,” he said.

Anna Howe said she would try and return the favor.

“I brought them cookies and candy, but that doesn’t make up for it,” she said.

The Enterprise