SHAMOKIN - A Christian mission to the Shamokin area this summer is expected to bring more than 400 volunteers who will work to make light repairs on homes owned by the needy.

The elderly, the poor, the disabled - anyone unable to make home repairs on their own - are encouraged to apply to have the volunteers work on their properties.

Group Cares, a nonprofit, non-denominational, faith-based organization stationed in Loveland, Colo., recruits high school-aged volunteers and adult mentors from church groups and other organizations nationwide for its weeklong workcamps. It was created in 1976 and, according to a brochure, 275,000 volunteers have logged more than 6 million service hours since then.

A mission was made to the Shamokin area in 2002 and work was performed at 25 homes in Shamokin and neighboring communities, said Robin Frahm, project manager for Group Cares.

This time around, they're targeting between 50 and 70 homes, and similar missions are planned for more than 40 U.S. cities this summer.

"They come to grow closer to Jesus, and that's how they do it, through service," Frahm said.

About $375 per home

While the mission is faith-based, the volunteers' help is open to anyone of any faith, or no faith at all, for that matter. Their is no income limit, but hardships - physical or financial - must exist to receive help.

Frahm said all applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. "If they're a client who could really use the help, we don't want to turn them away," she said.

One adult mentor is placed with each group of five youth volunteers. Examples of projects on GroupCares.org include construction of wheelchair ramps and porches and exterior painting.

Frahm said lower profile repairs include those to help bring a home up to code.

She estimated an average of $375 is spent on each home.

Bonding, too

Apart from beautifying homes in need of attention, Frahm said the volunteers and homeowners tend to bond during their visit. "Some of those residents what we worked with in 2002 are still getting letters from the kids," she said.

The group's visit from July 21 to 27 is cosponsored by Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging and the City of Shamokin, and is supported by Central Susquehanna Opportunities Inc. City council approved their visit last July.

$19,000 sought locally

Volunteers must raise $451 each to join the mission to Shamokin, with the money used to not only subsidize their trip through Group Cares, but also toward the purchase of some materials for the projects they'll undertake.

The organization is awaiting approval from Shamokin Area School Board to stay at one of its buildings. Lodging is simple: sleeping bags. Meals are served on location.

Another $19,000 is sought locally, and Steve Bartos, city clerk, said the cosponsors will turn to area churches and charitable organizations to help defray the cost.

He said Group Cares estimated more than $300,000 will be pumped into the local economy during their weeklong visit. If all goes well, the volunteers could return in 2014 and pursue similar work at another 70 homes, he said.

"I'm excited about it. It's something the area needs and it's a positive thing," he said.

Bartos credited Area Agency on Aging and its fiscal officer, Ann Marie Shehata, for having Group Cares revisit the area.

Patricia Rumberger, the agency's administrator, agreed: "She made all the contacts and really started the whole ball rolling."

Applications, due March 1, can be picked up either at City Hall, 47 E. Independence St., or CSO Inc., Grant Street entrance of the Northumberland County Career and Arts Center.

Call City Hall at 644-0876 or CSO Inc. at 644-6575 with questions.

For information on Group Cares, visit www.groupcares.org.