AMONG THE most dreaded times in a young scholar's life is the day "What I did on my summer vacation" is assigned as an essay. The long summer's events either fade or seem mundane.
The assignment will be less difficult for an exhausted, paint-spattered teen-age crew from Savage United Methodist Church. For the ninth year in a row, the church's Youth Fellowship will have participated in Camp Hope. The group is leaving Sunday to spend a week repairing two houses in Western Maryland.
Camp Hope is a four-week work session in Allegheny County with a mission to repair the residences of elderly and poorer homeowners in Frostburg. Run by the Methodist church, the camp sessions involve more than 40 congregations that send volunteers with paintbrushes and goodwill.
As Fred Wehland, who is in charge of the church group, points out, many homeowners in the area are elderly. Not only are the winters hard in Frostburg, but many of the younger folks have moved away. There aren't children and grandchildren around to help with repairs.
"That's where we come in," Wehland said.
From six volunteers in its beginning, the Savage contingent has grown to 14 members - four adults and 10 teen-agers, enough for two work groups.
The crews will work on the homes of two elderly Frostburg residents, repainting the houses, building a back porch, and repairing a roof, handrails and a chimney.
While Camp Hope provides the materials (from funds provided by each church group), the work crews bring tools and experience. Rich Erdman and Dave Paper are providing the expertise this time, with Caroline Menne and Wehland helping out. Wehland, a computer programmer, usually paints and leaves the more skilled jobs to Erdman and Paper.
Caroline Menne and her husband, the Rev. Galen Menne, are veterans of similar projects, but the bulk of the work is done by teen-agers, who must be at least 14 to participate. Some members participate for four or five years.
This year, Erin Vollmerhausen, Kasey Vollmerhausen, Jen Mino, Sarah Tolliver, Loren Treiber, Kaitlen Paper, Christian Sullivan, Dan Brosious, Laura Erdman and Abbey Keller are participating. Erin, who has been involved for three years , is known for her willingness to scale 40-foot ladders.
"There is no level ground in Frostburg," said Wehland, who added that sometimes the crews have to partially bury the ladders to make them stable.
The crews stay in dormitories at Frostburg State University. The day centers on work schedules and religious services - morning devotions and evening vespers services are held daily.
Camp Hope encourages the teen-agers to not only work on the houses, but to talk with the homeowners and get to know them.
"I think the kids get a lot out of it. It's good exposure because, although it's not so far away, it's different from what they are used to," said Wehland, referring to the differences between living in the suburbs and in the country.
"They get to see how people live in less prosperous areas," he said.
Every year, the Savage group tries to revisit the home of someone they helped in a previous year, just to say hello. Sometimes the visits are sad because an elderly resident has died. But more often, the visit provides a chance to see a friend.
Visitors to the Savage Library may have noticed the many additional children's programs available this summer. With the central branch shut down for renovations, the staff there has been assigned to other branches. More staff members means more programming possibilities.
Tanis Hadley, now at the Savage children's desk, mentioned that two new drop-in sessions of Play Partners have been added to the summer schedule: 11 a.m. Saturday and Aug. 5.
Hadley also will present Musical Fun at 10:15 a.m. Saturday as part of programs related to the summer reading game. She will read stories with musical themes.
With all the attention paid to children's programs this summer - more than 800 children signed up for the reading game - adult readers might feel slighted.
Not to worry. The larger staff means more adult programming, too. On the schedule for the fall are a nine-week career improvement program, several intergenerational programs, including the third session of Gardening with Ease, and some Web and computer classes for families.
Roll up your sleeves, lean back and give blood from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Laurel Regional Hospital, 7300 Van Dusen Road, Laurel.
To schedule an appointment: 301-497-7950.