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PUMP campers find ways to help

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

As summer drags on, adults can take heart in the fact that at least one group of teenagers isn't sleeping in this week.

Middle and high school students with the Paducah Urban Mission Plunge, or PUMP Camp, are gearing up to help the needy close to home. Before the week's out, about 78 kids and staff will have volunteered at a local soup kitchen, lent a hand at area ministries and helped homeowners with much-needed repairs.

"We really want them to grasp the concept that God can be a part of everyday life, whether that's community ministry or sharing Christ with friends during school," said Casey Watson, one of the camp's organizers.

PUMP was born around 1997 out of Concord United Methodist Church and became a district project the next year, Watson said. While it's directly endorsed by the United Methodist Church, several other local churches and denominations come together to make the camp possible.

By the end of their experience, Watson said, attendees will see that they don't have to leave the country to go on a mission trip. In fact, they can find the opportunity in their own backyards - literally, if they happen to live in the Fountain Avenue neighborhood.

One of the camp's projects on Wednesday put kids to work on home improvement projects through the Midtown Alliance of Neighbors, a 501(c)3 that grew out of the city's revitalization plan in the Fountain Avenue neighborhood. Since it was formed in 2008, the alliance has helped more than 100 homeowners who are financially unable to perform necessary maintenance on their properties, Executive Director Sharon Poat said.

"It was a lovely way for us to get to know people and get to know their needs," she said.

Washing siding, sanding mortar and painting homes are among the common tasks for the teenage volunteers, Poat said.

"It's really heartwarming to see the kids working," she said. "It makes a big difference."

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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