COAL TOWNSHIP - The helping hands of 387 volunteers from 12 states will saw boards, pound nails and paint drywall in nearly 70 area homes this week as part of this year's Group Cares Workcamp.

The Christian mission work camp, which is run by non-denomination Group Mission Trips, will begin work on the homes of low income, elderly or disabled residents in Coal Township, Shamokin, Elysburg, Kulpmont, Marion Heights, Mount Carmel and Trevorton.

Volunteers with the program, which is officially titled "Repair: The Story of a Transformation," are mostly high school age, with older adults serving as team leaders and managing the projects.

They will all live in classrooms in the Shamokin Area Middle-High School, sleeping on air mattresses on the floor and showering in the gym.

The ascetic lifestyle allows the $459 paid by each volunteer to fund the cost of construction materials.

Kim Sawyer, camp director, said extravagant lodgings are not necessary for the volunteers because the trip is rewarding for other reasons.

"I love to talk to campers on the first day because they're scared to death," said Sawyer. "Every one of them meets a new person, and on the last day they're exchanging e-mail addresses, phone numbers."

Camper Celia Nuzzolo, 16, of Glastonbury, Conn., said she had been on other youth trips and was excited to be a part of the Group Cares Workcamp.

"I'm looking forward to meeting new people and helping," said Nuzzolo.

Nuzzolo's group arrived in Shamokin around noon after a six-hour drive. She and her friends were in awe of the mountains they saw on the drive to the high school.

"It's so hilly. It reminded me of San Francisco," said Jen Conran, 17, of Glastonbury.

Her friend Elle Voss, 16, of Glastonbury, noted how different the architecture is from her hometown.

"All of the houses are stuck on top of each other," she said.

The girls will get to check out some of the houses up close today when they head out at 9 a.m. to begin working on their projects.